Man’s Salvation Secondary to God’s Vindication
The Bible speaks much about the salvation of man, but where does it talk of the vindication of God? Does it teach vindication is more important than salvation?
JEHOVAH’S witnesses stress the vindication of Jehovah’s name. Other religions put the emphasis on the salvation of man: Repent and be saved, confess your sins, be baptized, accept Jesus as your Savior. These are the sentiments harped on by the evangelistic revivalists and crusaders. The Bible teaches these truths and Jehovah’s witnesses embrace them and preach them to others. They are very important. They should never be minimized. But neither should they be magnified so out of proportion that they hide the more important truth of the Bible, the vindication of Jehovah’s name.
God’s name Jehovah was made known in a special way when he delivered the Israelites from Egypt as his chosen nation. He put his name on that people and gave them his law: “And now if you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The Israelites agreed to obey and be Jehovah’s special property with his name on them. They were warned: “You must not take up the name of Jehovah your God in a worthless way, for Jehovah will not leave the one unpunished who takes up his name in a worthless way.”—Ex. 19:5, 6; 20:7, NW.
When this third one of the Ten Commandments says not to take God’s name in vain or in a worthless way, it means much more than not using his name in profanity. It means that those who agree to be God’s people bear his name and must obey the laws and commands and principles his name stands for; otherwise they are taking his name in a worthless way and will not go unpunished. They cannot disgrace his name forever. In his due time Jehovah will take action to vindicate it, even at the cost of human lives, for its vindication is more important.
WHY JEHOVAH SAVED ISRAEL
When leaving Egypt the Israelites rebelled at the Red Sea, but Jehovah saved them in spite of their rebellion. Why? For their sake? No, but because God’s name was on them and the Egyptian pursuers were not to be allowed a victory that would seem to be a triumph over Jehovah. The psalmist says of that time: “Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.”—Ps. 106:8.
In the third month after leaving Egypt Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the law from Jehovah. Later Jehovah told Moses that the people were acting ruinously by worshiping the image of a calf. When Jehovah said he was going to destroy them it was Moses who caused Him to refrain. On what basis? The salvation of the people, their preservation? No, but for the sake of Jehovah’s name, which was on this people. Moses argued: “Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent he brought them out in order to kill them among the mountains and to exterminate them from the surface of the ground’?” Also, “Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel your servants, to whom you swore by yourself, in that you said to them, ‘I shall multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens, and all this land that I have designated I shall give to your seed, that they may indeed take possession of it to time indefinite.’” So Jehovah withheld destruction, not for Israel’s sake, but to keep the Egyptians from saying Jehovah was unable to take them to the Promised Land and killed them instead, and to keep the promise made in his name to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.—Ex. 32:12, 13; Deut. 9:24-29, NW.
Later, when the spies returned from spying out the land of Canaan and the Israelites rebelled at entering the land, Jehovah berated their lack of respect and faith and was going to destroy them. Again Moses intervened, saying that the nations “have heard that you are Jehovah in among this people” and “were you to put this people to death as one man, then the nations who have heard of your fame would certainly say this, ‘Because of Jehovah’s not being able to bring this people into the land about which he swore to them he proceeded to slaughter them in the wilderness.’” So again the people were spared, not because their salvation was so important, but because it would reflect unfavorably on the name of Jehovah that was associated with this people.—Num. 14:14-16, NW.
After Israel had entered the land of Canaan and been under the rule of judges for centuries, they decided they wanted a human king, as the nations around them had. This was a rejection of Jehovah God, but it was permitted nonetheless. However, Jehovah showed his displeasure by causing thunder and rain in the time of wheat harvest—not the season for such weather at all! The people were greatly frightened at this miraculous display, but after admonishing them to follow Jehovah the prophet Samuel reassured them: “For Jehovah will not desert his people for the sake of his great name, because Jehovah has taken it upon himself to make you his people.” Here again it was for the sake of his name upon those people that he put up with them.—1 Sam. 12:22, NW.
Jehovah was long-suffering with these people for his name’s sake, but the time came when their blasphemy and idolatry became so disgraceful that he cast them out of the land. The debased, obscene demon worship they indulged in while saying they served Jehovah was a taking of his name in a worthless way—a sin not to go unpunished! He allowed the Babylonians to take his faithless people captive. But the nations among whom the Israelites were scattered interpreted the dispersion as evidence of the weakness of the Israelites’ God, Jehovah. To demonstrate the falsity of this reasoning Jehovah said he would restore Israel to the land of Judah. Hence Israel’s restoration was not for the nation’s salvation, but for the vindication of Jehovah’s name. We read about this at Ezekiel 36:19-24 (RS):
“I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries; in accordance with their conduct and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that men said of them, ‘These are the people of [Jehovah], and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel caused to be profaned among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord [Jehovah]: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am [Jehovah], says the Lord [Jehovah], when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.”
NEW NATION REPLACES ISRAEL
Accordingly, seventy years after the start of the desolation of Jerusalem a faithful remnant of Jews returned to Jerusalem and restored true worship of Jehovah. But in a few score years the Jews were despising Jehovah’s name and calling his table contemptible, doing this by offering polluted food, blemished and sickly animals as sacrifices, on his altar. More than four hundred years later Jesus came to the temple in Jerusalem and found those in charge of the sacrifices still corrupt, and he said to them: “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a cave of robbers.” Jesus said to that nation guilty of taking Jehovah’s name in a worthless way: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.”—Matt. 21:13, 43, NW; Mal. 1:6-8.
To the new nation producing Kingdom fruits the apostle Peter said: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people.” Do you recognize this language as similar to that spoken to Israel when it was made Jehovah’s special property to bear his name? Peter is quoting the substance of Exodus 19:5, 6 and applies it no longer to natural Israel but to spiritual Israel, whose members include both Jew and Gentile. Now it is the Christian organization, made up of Jews and non-Jews, that becomes the chosen people bearing Jehovah’s name: “Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.”—1 Pet. 2:9, 10; Acts 15:14, NW.
This “people for his name” should not take his name in vain or in a worthless way and suffer punishment, as Israel did. They should obey his commands, declare his truths, reflect his praises, produce Kingdom fruits. The Christian nation is not to sacrifice animals as Israel did, but “we will render the bulls of our lips.” This new nation does not offer fruits of the ground as Israel did, but “let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” The verbal bulls, the fruits offered by Christian lips, should not be polluted or sickly, which is what they will be unless they are words of truth from the Bible properly used as healthful teaching. Nor should these verbal sacrifices ostensibly offered to God be actually diverted to the praise of false “gods,” such as to men or human schemes or religious organizations.—Hos. 14:2, RS, margin; Heb. 13:15, NW.
NAME NOW NEEDS VINDICATION
Jehovah commands: “And you must not swear in my name to a lie, so that you do profane the name of your God. I am Jehovah.” If religious organizations teach lies in God’s name they are profaning it and putting it in need of vindication. Some say the earth will be destroyed by fire, but the Bible says: “The earth abideth for ever.” Some say you will live either in heaven or hell-fire, but of the earth the Bible says: “He created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited.” Some say sinners have immortal souls that will be tortured forever, but the Bible says: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Some say two others are equal to God in a trinity, but the Bible says: “Jehovah is greater than all other gods.” Those who in God’s name teach doctrines contrary to the Bible are teaching lies in his name, are profaning his name.—Lev. 19:12, NW; Eccl. 1:4; Isa. 45:18; Ezek. 18:4; Ex. 18:11, NW.
Some religions have adopted pagan teachings to facilitate yoking pagans and Christians, but the Bible warns: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” Others more modernistically-minded adopt scientific, evolutionary philosophies to attract the intellectuals, but here too the Bible cautions: “Look out: perhaps there may be some man that will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” Most religions of Christendom teach friendship and participation with the world, but the Bible rules that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one” and that whoever “wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” In these and many other ways false religions of Christendom swear to lies in Jehovah’s name.—2 Cor. 6:14; Col. 2:8; 1 John 5:19; Jas. 4:4, NW.
Many peoples and religions in the nations claiming to be Christian are actually taking God’s name in a vain and worthless way. By their false teachings and unclean conduct they bring disgrace upon the name of God that they say they bear. Hence Jehovah’s name needs vindicating, and its vindication is more important than their salvation, for it will be cleared at the cost of their lives: “Let them be put to shame, and perish: that men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.”—Ps. 83:18.
This destruction in vindication of Jehovah’s name will come in God’s battle called Armageddon. When this is mentioned in these days scoffers ridicule and say what the Bible said they would say: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.” Jehovah may seem slow in acting to some, but “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” Jehovah is interested in the salvation of men; he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, he would like for all to come to their senses and repent and be saved. He gives plenty of time for them to do so. But the promised destruction will come.—2 Pet. 3:4, 9, NW.
VINDICATION INCLUDES SALVATION
More is promised, to follow the destruction of this old world: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” Then man will have the privilege of beautifying the earth, keeping it looking glorious, overseeing the animal life in it, filling it with his own kind, and many other blessings that defy the imagination. Read this brief description of conditions then: “Look! the tent of God is with humankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.”—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:3, 4, NW.
Jehovah promises this in his name, in his Word, the Bible. He promises a new world of righteousness, that the earth will abide forever, that it will be inhabited forever, that by accepting Jesus as our ransom we can be saved to live in it forever. These promises made in his name he must fulfill, otherwise they would be lies in his name and would profane his name. He forbids those bearing his name to profane it; certainly he would not thus profane it himself. A part of the vindication of his name will be the fulfilling of these promises that scoffers have doubted and ridiculed. Since some of these promises concern human salvation, salvation of obedient men becomes one part of the vindication of Jehovah’s name. Vindication is greater than salvation but it includes salvation, just as it includes the fulfillment of all promises made in Jehovah’s name. His promises will not go unfulfilled: “For, as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither, without having watered the earth, and made it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth—it shall not return to me fruitless, without having done the thing that I pleased, and accomplishing the purpose for which I sent it.”—Isa. 55:10, 11, AT.
Hence when Jehovah’s witnesses stress the vindication of Jehovah’s name they are not belittling salvation of men—that is vital to them and all other human creatures. They are merely keeping vindication and salvation in proper perspective, giving each its rightful place, putting Jehovah’s vindication in first place and keeping man’s salvation in its proper secondary place. Oftentimes even men put their good name higher than their life, preferring to die rather than bring dishonor to their name. If man’s name is more important than his life, certainly God’s name is more important than man’s life! Jesus put as the first great commandment the love for God, and in the secondary position he put the love for man. He also put the sacredness of Jehovah’s name first in the model prayer he taught his followers: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” When you pray this prayer you also put Jehovah’s name and its sanctification and vindication first. In praying this prayer you too put the human interests secondary to Jehovah’s vindication.—Matt. 6:9; 22:37-39, NW.