Jehovah Leads His People
“You in your loving-kindness have led the people whom you have recovered; you in your strength will certainly conduct them to your holy abiding place.”—Ex. 15:13, NW.
1, 2. (a) What striking examples of Jehovah’s leadership do the Scriptures disclose? (b) For what two reasons is it timely to consider these?
IN ANCIENT times Jehovah proved himself to be a mighty, yet gracious, leader of his people. On one memorable occasion he led them out of bondage in Egypt to their promised inheritance, and on another great occasion he led them out from captivity in Babylon back to their homeland. Today, at long last, Jehovah again leads his people out from the present wicked system of things into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Jehovah himself caused much detail to be recorded of those previous examples of his leadership, from which we can and should learn a great deal, “for all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction.” Yes, we can look forward to gaining a closer insight and keener appreciation of the various qualities manifested by our great God when acting in this capacity. But, besides this, we have another objective. It is important and timely for us today to consider the responsibility resting upon us who are favored to be among those who are being led by Jehovah. Broadly speaking, that responsibility falls under two headings. First, we all have to learn how to be true followers, faithfully following the lead set for us. At the same time, however, many of Jehovah’s servants are called upon to act as leaders in varying degrees and positions, and none of us want to “accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose.”—Rom. 15:4; 2 Cor. 6:1, NW.
2 Before coming to the question of our individual position and responsibility, and in order that we may approach it with a proper understanding and with the right spirit, let us first look at our position as a whole. We will note some of the outstanding things brought to our attention respecting Jehovah’s leadership of his people in times past, and then see how those things throw light on the manner and purpose of his present leadings and the part we have to play therein. We will begin with that grand example, already mentioned, of Israel’s journeyings from the time they left Egypt.
HOW JEHOVAH LED ISRAEL
3. What was at the back of all Jehovah’s dealings with Israel?
3 We are not left to ourselves to study the recorded history of the Israelites from the time they left Egypt and their forty-year trek through the wilderness and draw our own conclusions as to how Jehovah led them. He himself caused Moses to write the words of a song at just about the end of Israel’s journeyings, drawing our attention to the very things in which we are interested. First, Jehovah’s purpose back of all his dealings with Israel is clearly stated at the commencement of the song: “For I shall declare the name of Jehovah. Do you attribute greatness to our God!” The honor and vindication of Jehovah’s holy name is the primary consideration, as David also confirmed, saying: “Who then is like thy people, like Israel, a nation alone in the earth? whom God went to redeem for himself [out of Egypt] as a people so to make himself a name.” Isaiah, too, stressed the same thing when he wrote: “So didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a majestic name!”—Deut. 32:3, NW; 2 Sam. 7:23; Isa. 63:14, Ro.
4. What qualities were manifested in Jehovah’s leadership, and how are they described in the Record?
4 Now let us take note of the excellent qualities shown by Jehovah as the great Leader of his people. There are quite a few, but on examination they can be seen to line themselves up in striking, but balanced, contrast. On the one hand, with fighting strength and in fiery anger as “a manly person of war,” he proved himself powerful in ability to shatter the enemy. On the other hand, in loving-kindness toward the people whom he had reclaimed from Pharaoh’s grasp, he manifested fatherly strength and ability to protect and conduct Israel gently, yet surely, all the way to their ultimate “holy abiding place.” Jehovah certainly proved himself a Leader of infinite tenacity and tenderness. As Moses reminded Israel at the commencement of what he told them on the plains of Moab: “You saw how Jehovah your God carried you just as a man carries his son, in all the way that you traveled until your coming to this place.” Then again in Moses’ closing song we have that lovely and stirring description of Jehovah’s leadership, with all its wealth of significant imagery, finishing on the note of Jehovah’s right to all the honor and credit, in these words: “He came to find him [Israel] in a wilderness land, and in an empty, howling desert. He began to encircle him, to take care of him, to safeguard him as the pupil of his eye. Just as an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its fledglings, spreads out its wings, takes them, carries them on its pinions, Jehovah alone kept leading him, and there was no foreign god along with him.”—Ex. 15:1-3, 6, 13; Deut. 1:31; 32:10-12, NW.
5. Did Israel appreciate what God did for them? and did that defeat God’s purpose respecting them?
5 From the foregoing quotations alone one might conclude that Israel must surely have greatly appreciated, like a responsive child, all that Jehovah did for that people. But was such the case? Sad to relate, it was quite the reverse. From Mount Sinai onward, and as Moses testified when addressing them on the plains of Moab, the children of Israel, especially the generation that left Egypt, proved to be “a generation crooked and twisted.” They “acted ruinously” and “turned aside in a hurry from the way I [Jehovah] have commanded them to go. . . . I have looked at this people and here it is a stiff-necked people.” Yet though that generation died off in the wilderness, with very few exceptions, as Jehovah foretold and determined, yet by no means did he relinquish his original purpose. Instead, through his angel, he kept on leading Israel just the same and successfully brought the sons of that original generation into the Promised Land and gave them possession of it.—Ex. 32:7-9, 34; Deut. 1:34-40; 32:5, NW.
6, 7. (a) What two further qualities were thus disclosed? (b) What other great example of God’s leadership is found in the Bible?
6 This highlights two further qualities in Jehovah’s leadership of his people. It reveals his abundant mercy, balanced by his righteous judgments brought upon those who, though they had seen his glory and many miraculous signs, yet did not listen to his voice and treated him without respect.—Ex. 34:6, 7; Num. 14:22, 23.
7 Much more could be said, of course, under this heading. But, keeping to our main theme respecting the manner and purpose of Jehovah’s leadings, let us see what can be learned from the Scriptures as they deal with the return of God’s people from their captivity in Babylon.
THE RETURN FROM BABYLON
8. In what way does the field of our study now widen out?
8 See now how our field of study widens out. The record already considered is primarily historical, though it is true it provides the basis for many prophetic patterns. In contrast the record concerning the return of the Jews from Babylon is mainly prophetic, for the most important things involved therein were recorded long before the event took place. In fact, it was about two hundred years previously that Isaiah in particular was inspired to write those numerous glowing passages telling of the return from exile. What is more wonderful still is the fact that those prophecies were really written for a later day, our own day, when Jehovah leads his people from modern Babylon up to his New World organization, Zion.
9. In what three ways are many prophecies seen to have their fulfillment?
9 Many times those prophecies have been discussed in these columns, with collateral Scriptural evidence in support, showing how they had, first, a literal fulfillment in 537 B.C. and the years following. Then they had, in many instances, a miniature fulfillment at the time of the first advent, centering round the person of Christ Jesus. But, beyond question, their major fulfillment, along with prophecy in general, is focused on these days of the second advent, in the stupendous events now taking place under the direction of the reigning King, Christ Jesus. Accepting this basis, we shall confine our attention to the particular expressions and aspects of these prophecies that relate to our main theme.
10. To whom are we specially introduced in Isaiah’s prophecy, and what is said of him respecting his commission and qualities?
10 To begin with, we are introduced to the One appointed by God to serve as his representative: “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” Immediately it is foretold that this One will manifest the same qualities of tireless, faithful leadership, as did Jehovah himself: “He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set justice in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law.” Then the prophecy broadens out and tells of the grand commission to be accomplished by this servant, whose very appointment is a guarantee that he will lead, not only a remnant of faithful Jews, but also a great crowd of Gentiles from darkness and bondage into glorious light and freedom: “I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness, and [as the prime Leader] will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.” Then comes a reiteration of the fact that the credit and glory for all these things belong to Jehovah, who tolerates no rival: “I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images.”—Isa. 42:1, 4, 6-8, AS.
11. How can we identify the “servant” of Isaiah’s prophecy?
11 But who is this honored servant? You will note from the foregoing that the first thing mentioned is that Jehovah puts his spirit, his invisible active force, upon this One, authorizing and empowering him to carry out his commission. This points us to the vital link in the chain of evidence, namely, the prophecy recorded at Isaiah 61:1-3 (which please read), where more information is given as to the result and outworking of the spirit’s operation on this anointed servant, including the leading forth into liberty of those found in prisonlike bondage. In turn this latter scripture was quoted by Jesus, when addressing his own townfolk in the synagogue at Nazareth, as being fulfilled in himself that very day. (Luke 4:17-21) As many of our readers well know, this is by no means the only link identifying the “servant” frequently mentioned by Isaiah. Quotations from Isaiah, chapter 53, for example, telling of the sufferings and shame heaped upon Jehovah’s servant, are applied to Christ Jesus in quite a few instances in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
12. How is this “servant” described at Isaiah 55:3, 4, and what scriptures throw light on the present application of this prophecy?
12 Turning now to Isaiah, chapter 55, we find some interesting and important information. Appealing to those who come to realize their need of those spiritual provisions that Jehovah alone can provide, Jehovah says: “Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples.” (Isa. 55:3, 4, AS) Here we have the explicit statement that this One, Jehovah’s servant, will act as leader with full authority to issue directions and commands. These are imperative commands. “Indeed, any soul that does not listen to that Prophet will be completely destroyed from among the people.” He is Jehovah’s “faithful and true witness,” and he is the one who gives expression to the urgent command in these days of Babylon’s impending destruction: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” As Jehovah’s representative, “called Faithful and True,” he then proceeds to lead the heavenly armies against the nations of this world opposed to his rule, “and out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword,” giving those orders that bring about the final execution of the enemy forces. How like the fighting strength and ability manifested by Jehovah in the overthrow of Pharaoh and his forces!—Acts 3:19-23; Rev. 3:14; 18:4; 19:11-16, NW.
13. What confirmation of Jehovah’s servant as a leader do we find at Isaiah 11:1-5?
13 At this point we wish to draw your attention to yet another passage from Isaiah’s prophecy closely linking the features already considered and giving strong confirmation thereto. Remember that Christ Jesus is the One who, as David’s Son and rightful heir, inherits “the sure mercies of David,” summed up in the unbreakable covenant for the Kingdom promised to David’s seed, as beautifully expressed at Psalm 89:33-37. Fittingly, therefore, this One as the Greater David is described in the opening verses of Isaiah, chapter 11, as “a shoot out of the stock of Jesse [David’s father], and a branch out of his roots.” (See Revelation 22:16 for proof of identification.) Now read for yourself the description that follows at Isaiah 11:1-5 (AS), showing the marvelous and balanced qualifications for leadership bestowed on this One by Jehovah’s spirit, making him a wise, strong and understanding leader, showing fatherly strength and ability on behalf of “the meek of the earth,” and wholly dependable, because “righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.” Note, too, the link with Revelation 19:15 in that “he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.”
14. How does the prophecy tell of the grand outcome of Christ’s leadership?
14 So glorious is the final outcome of his leadership that there will not be a single creature or thing that will hurt or destroy in all his holy realm. There will be peace and harmony even among all the animal creation, and their leadership by man will be a pleasant task, for it says “a little child shall lead them.” Such happy relationship already obtains among those who are dwelling in Zion, Jehovah’s organization, and who have his spirit, faithfully following Christ’s leadership.—Isa. 11:6-9, AS.
CHANGE OF PICTURE
15. By the use of what term does Isaiah, chapter 11, indicate a changed viewpoint?
15 But this is not all. Isaiah, chapter 11, goes on to foretell the wonderful things accomplished by Jehovah’s appointed leader and servant, but a different term is employed, giving a different viewpoint. So far, the scriptures considered dealing with Israel in Moses’ day, also the return of the Jews from Babylon, have given the idea of a mobile leadership, with Jehovah, through his representative, leading the way. The picture now changes, however, and describes a leadership exercised by means of a stationary, exalted signal, for Isa 11 verses 10 and 12 (AT) read: “On that day that the root of Jesse, who will be standing as a signal [Hebrew, nehs] to the peoples—to him will the nations resort, and his resting-place will be glorious. He will raise a signal [nehs] to the nations, and will gather the outcasts of Israel; and the scattered daughters of Judah will he assemble from the four corners of the earth.”
16. Who is the Signal referred to in these prophecies?
16 This scripture, in conjunction with Isaiah 62:10-12 and other passages, has previously been examined in these pages, showing that the Hebrew word translated “signal” does not refer to a flag or banner raised aloft by a leader marching at the head of a column of people. Instead, it refers to a stationary signal set up on a lofty height. (See The Watchtower, January 15, 1948.) We are now in “that day” spoken of at Isaiah 11:10 and happy are our eyes of understanding and faith that clearly behold the glorious and prominent signal raised up by Jehovah in the person of his reigning King, Christ Jesus. He is indeed the Signal, enthroned on the lofty height of Mount Zion, the established kingdom of God. And for what purpose?
17. For what primary purpose was the Signal raised? How did this apply in Israel’s day?
17 Primarily, to give the lead in restoring and forever establishing in this earth the true, pure worship of Jehovah. Long ago Satan, posing as an “angel of light,” set a false lead on this vital question of worship, first seducing Eve and, through her, the vast majority of the human family. Into this snare, in due course, Israel fell, ultimately being led into dark and dungeonlike captivity in Babylon, the stronghold of false religion. It was the promised liberation for a faithful remnant from this captivity that formed the immediate basis for many of Isaiah’s prophecies. The inviting and commanding signal then was Jerusalem restored on her own hilltop, with Jehovah’s visible representative governing in her midst and with his official high priest conducting the clean worship of Jehovah in the reconstructed temple.—2 Cor. 11:3, 14.
18. With Scriptural support, show what is signified today by the raising of the Signal.
18 Today we are greatly privileged to witness the final fulfillment of these prophecies on a grand scale, for first from and after 1919 the remnant of Christ’s anointed followers paid heed to the divine command and severed all connections with modern Babylon and gathered to the Signal on Mount Zion. But this was only the start of good things, for the raising of the Signal marks the beginning of a great gathering of people earth-wide to the support of the long-awaited Kingdom and its King and to engage actively in the worship and service of him who has the supreme right thereto, without a rival. (Luke 4:8) Paul tells of this appointed time for this all-important work, including a reference to those first gathered, when he says: “It is according to his [God’s] good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth. Yes, in him, . . . that we should serve for the praise of his glory, we who have been first to hope in the Christ.”—Eph. 1:9-12, NW.
19. (a) With what vital work and question are we thereby confronted? (b) How do the Scriptures indicate the proper answer to this question?
19 Confronted with this stupendous task, we see that the question as to the means used by God to bring about its accomplishment takes on a keen significance. Is Christ Jesus, as King and Signal, the only one appointed to undertake the leadership of all those being gathered, and yet to be gathered, to the Kingdom organization? This is a vital question, directly affecting all of Jehovah’s servants on earth in one way or another, and we want the right, and therefore Scriptural, answer. Referring to the faithful remnant of Jews who returned from Babylon, Jehovah caused Isaiah to write: “Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen.” (Isa. 43:10, AS) This is but one of many references showing that while at times Jehovah’s servant is spoken of as one individual there are other instances where that servant is spoken of in a collective sense. In other words, in the final fulfillment of Isaiah 43:10-12 we see that, while there is but the one anointed servant class or body, yet that class is made up of many individual witnesses, or members. (1 Cor. 12:14) Jesus, speaking of this same anointed slave class, spoke of the responsibilities of leadership committed to that class when he asked and answered the question: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics to give them their food at the proper time? . . . Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Matt. 24:45-47, NW.
20. What conclusion is to be drawn from these scriptures, leading to what question for further consideration?
20 Hence, while the Master retains control at all times and at all levels, yet he gives his faithful followers a considerable share and responsibility in the service of the Kingdom interests. And what of the individual aspect of the matter, for, as has already been said, none of us want to “accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose”? (2 Cor. 6:1, NW) We shall reserve the consideration of this question for the article following this.