The Comely Feet of the Messengers
1. Since when have the messengers of liberation gone forth particularly, and what parallel situation does Paul write about that applied in his day?
FROM the year 1919 onward messengers of liberation have been sent out. This runs parallel with the situation in the days of the Christian apostles, when the apostle Paul said: “‘Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.’ However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach? How, in turn, will they preach unless they have been sent forth? Just as it is written: ‘How comely are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!’”—Rom. 10:13-15, quoting from Joel 2:32 and Isaiah 52:7.
2. To what three time periods does the prophecy of liberation in Isaiah, chapter 52, apply?
2 Under inspiration the apostle Paul quoted from the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter fifty-two, which tells us of the messengers who carry the news of liberation to Zion or Jerusalem. This prophecy first applied to the literal, earthly city of Zion or Jerusalem in the sixth century before Christ; but Paul’s quoting from the prophecy proves that it has a larger, fuller realization upon the Greater Zion, heavenly Zion, the Jerusalem above. The application of the prophecy in this way was not exhausted in the days of Christ’s apostles but reaches its fullness and finality in our day.
3. What liberating command was Isaiah inspired to speak?
3 As if we were back in the sixth century B.C. we hear Isaiah’s prophecy quoted and directed to the literal earthly city: “Wake up, wake up, put on your strength, O Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For no more will there come again into you the uncircumcised and unclean one. Shake yourself free from the dust, rise up, take a seat, O Jerusalem. Loosen for yourself the bands on your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.”
4. From when do these words apply to Israel in the type, and why then and not before?
4 In 537 B.C. the literal city of Zion or Jerusalem lay in the ruins to which the Babylonian army had reduced her. But the city was represented by her surviving citizens and other Israelites over whom she had ruled up till 607 B.C. So the above-quoted words of Isaiah 52:1, 2 applied to such children of hers and foretold what they would do at God’s command. Those words did not apply to Zion or Jerusalem before ancient Babylon fell in 539 B.C. to Cyrus the Persian. The captive Israelites or Jews were not commanded to make a break for freedom and liberate themselves before Babylon fell. They were to wait until after Babylon fell and until after Babylon’s conqueror, Cyrus the Great, published his decree of liberation, freeing the captive Jews at Babylon to go back to their home country and rebuild the temple at Jerusalem for Jehovah’s worship. First then were they authorized to get out of Babylon; and their desolated homeland would be well-rested-up to receive them back.
5, 6. When did Cyrus issue the decree of liberation for the Israelites, and why was this a convenient time to give that decree?
5 Jehovah God had decreed that their land should rest without inhabitants for seventy years. Its seventieth year of sabbath-keeping began in the early autumn of 538 B.C., about the time of the Jewish Day of Atonement. Cyrus’ decree of liberation was published in the first year of his reign. Babylon fell before him in 539 B.C., and Bible chronologers figure that his first regnal year began in the spring of the year following, on Nisan 1, 538 B.C., which would be six months before the seventieth year of sabbath-keeping of the land of Judah began. If Cyrus had issued his decree early in 538 B.C. as his first regnal year, the exiled Jews could have made the journey back to their land before its seventieth year of sabbath-keeping began, which would have been contrary to Jehovah’s prophecy. Or they might have had to journey through the rainy winter months of the year, which would be from October through March. This would not be too good.
6 By the calculation above, Cyrus’ first regnal year would end on March 5 of 537 B.C., or toward the end of the rainy season. Doubtless he considerately issued his decree near the end of the rainy season, shortly before March 5 of 537 B.C., and in that way the exiled Israelites could make arrangements to travel in the convenient dry season from April through September. They evidently made the four-month-long journey from Babylon during the dry months, for by October they were back and settled in their beloved homeland, before the first day of their seventh lunar month.—Ezra 3:1.
7. What did this liberation of Zion mean, and of what did she become the symbol?
7 By the rebuilding of Jerusalem from 537 B.C. forward, the “captive daughter of Zion” shook herself free from the dust of desolation, waking up from her seventy-year-long stupor and loosing the bands that Babylon had put on her neck. She put on her strength and donned herself in beautiful garments, especially those of holiness, to become a holy city with Jehovah’s temple of worship. She no longer sat on the ground in slavery, but took her seat among cities that were authorized to exist. Jerusalem became what Jesus Christ called her, “the city of the great King.” (Matt. 5:35) She became a symbol of heavenly Zion, the Jerusalem above.
8. (a) Though God’s kingdom was born in 1914, what was the condition of its earthly subjects at that time? (b) What was the attitude of Great Babylon toward the book The Finished Mystery?
8 When the Gentile Times ended in the early autumn of the year 1914, God’s “woman,” the heavenly Zion or Jerusalem above, gave birth to the Messianic kingdom by means of which Jehovah God would express his own royalty and his sovereignty over the earth. But on earth the spiritual “remnant of her seed” had to pass through the first world war. Because of not then properly understanding a Christian’s strict neutrality toward political conflicts of earth and not understanding the matter of relative subjection to the earthly “higher powers,” the remnant was brought into bondage to Great Babylon. In July of 1917, by means of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, the remnant published what was called “the seventh volume of the Studies in the Scriptures,” namely, the book entitled “The Finished Mystery.” This contained an explanation of the Bible books of Revelation and of Ezekiel, and it had much to say against Babylon the Great. Thousands engaged in distributing this book down into the year 1918. This did not please Great Babylon, and she had this Seventh Volume banned, not only in Canada, but also, by March, 1918, in the United States of America.
9, 10. (a) Though the work continued without The Finished Mystery, what further action against God’s people brought Great Babylon much joy? (b) Why was her joy short-lived? (c) What did God’s liberated people first do?
9 The preaching work continued on after that with other Bible literature, but Zion’s children on earth came into a state of captivity to Great Babylon, especially when leading officials and other associates of the Watch Tower Society were imprisoned in July of 1918. The symbolic “two witnesses,” as foretold in Revelation 11:3-10, were killed. Great Babylon was overjoyed, and she celebrated. But her jubilation was to be short-lived. Revelation 11:3-13 foretold that those “two witnesses” would be revived and would ascend to worldwide prominence, with fright to their enemies. This began taking place in the spring of the first postwar year, 1919.
10 To the dismay of Great Babylon and all other enemies the remnant on earth of Zion’s spiritual children suddenly came forth into freedom. They saw that work was yet ahead of them on earth. Eagerly they arose to the joy of the service of God’s kingdom to which God’s woman Zion had given birth in the heavens. On September 1-8 they held a general convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, at which six thousand of them were present; and seven thousand attended the public lecture on Sunday on the subject “The Hope of Distressed Humanity.”
11. To aid the liberators, what additional publication became available, and what were all encouraged to do?
11 The publication of an additional magazine, now known as Awake!, called forth enthusiastic applause from the conventioners. The organization of the congregations that had circulated the message against Babylon the Great in the Seventh Volume down into 1918 was to be revived. In the Watch Tower issue of September 15, 1919, the article “Announcing the Kingdom” was published, using as its caption texts Revelation 15:2 and Isaiah 52:7. In telling of the work of announcing the “golden age” under God’s kingdom, this article went on to tell how to proceed in order to pass on to others the glad tidings by means of the new magazine, namely, The Golden Age, which is now known as Awake!: “The organization that handled the Seventh Volume work proved a wonderful success. Seven thousand of the friends were engaged in that special work. We are asking the classes everywhere to revive that organization and put it in proper form. Let us remember that in unity, in the spirit of Christ, is there strength; that if we have our hearts in a right condition, closely united together in love, God will manifest his strength in our behalf.” (Page 281, paragraph 3) This was addressed to more than 17,961 who had attended the Memorial or Lord’s Supper that year.a
12. How did the earthly remaining ones of Zion’s seed show that they had awakened, giving sure proof of whose fall?
12 Truly the heavenly Zion, being represented by the ones remaining on earth of her seed, here began to “wake up” from her sorrow and stupefied condition and do as told, “put on your strength.” She shook herself “free from the dust,” not permitting Great Babylon or the rest of the Devil’s visible organization to walk over her. She loosed for herself the bands on her neck, no longer letting Great Babylon lead her around like a captive slave. Rising from the dust of deadness and weak supineness, she took a seat on a chair or throne. She was determined to be a “holy city,” through which the unclean religionists and persons with uncircumcised hearts would no more pass as triumphant invaders. She put off the dusty slave garments and put on her beautiful garments suitable for the organization to which the King of Eternity, Jehovah God, was wedded. This was sure proof that Great Babylon had fallen.
“YOUR GOD HAS BECOME KING”
13. (a) To whom was credit due for this liberation? (b) How does Isaiah describe the attitude of Jehovah toward liberating his people?
13 The remnant of Zion’s spiritual children on earth did not buy this liberation with money or by compromise with the enemy. It was Almighty God by his Greater Cyrus, the King Jesus Christ, who brought about that liberation, for God and Christ had gained the victory over Great Babylon. As God considered the situation of his people before liberating them, he said, prophetically: “‘And now, what interest do I have here?’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For my people were taken for nothing. The very ones ruling over them kept howling,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and constantly, all day long, my name was being treated with disrespect. For that reason my people will know my name, even for that reason in that day, because I am the One that is speaking. Look! It is I.’”—Isa. 52:5, 6.
14. How was the depth of appreciation of the liberated remnant of Zion’s seed shown?
14 As in the case of ancient Israel so when Great Babylon had the spiritual remnant of Zion’s seed in the dust under her feet, she howled at them and treated the name of their God with disrespect. In effect, Great Babylon howled disdainfully at them: “Where is your God Jehovah?” But in 1919, in their behalf, Jehovah added to his name the glory of Liberator by delivering them from their religious oppressor. From then on they learned to know him and his unique name as never before. Their acquaintance with him went to such a depth of appreciation that in the year 1931, by resolutions adopted around the world, the remnant of Zion’s seed embraced the designation “Jehovah’s witnesses.” Jehovah had declared that this would occur “in that day.” Since 1919 this is the day that this has occurred, because He is the one that has spoken it.
15, 16. What next do we consider in Isaiah’s prophecy on liberation, and why is this of importance?
15 Now, in Isaiah’s prophecy, Isa chapter fifty-two, our attention is shifted from the mistreatment of his people in Babylon to the desolate condition of Zion or Jerusalem on her once-holy mountain. In the distance ahead someone is approaching on the mountains. It is a messenger to desolated Zion. Describing him, Isaiah, with prophetic forevision, exclaims: “How comely upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news, the one publishing peace, the one bringing good news of something better, the one publishing salvation, the one saying to Zion: ‘Your God has become king!’” (Isa. 52:7) It is God’s messenger bearing the news of liberation.
16 The good news, the peace published, the good news of something better, the salvation published, the telling of God’s rule as king, all this was for desolate Zion. How comely the feet of that messenger must have appeared to Zion! The announcement that her God had become king meant nothing less than that Babylon the slaveowner had fallen and her Israelite captives had been given their religious liberty by Cyrus the Great, in 537 B.C.
17. At what other times were the messengers of liberation greatly appreciated?
17 Centuries afterward, in apostolic days, the feet of the Christian messengers who were sent to the remaining ones of Zion’s spiritual children looked just as comely. (Rom. 10:15) But messengers with such comely feet began to be sent again, particularly from the year 1919 forward. How comely they looked to the remnant of Zion’s seed in that year! It was because the remnant loved the kingdom of Jehovah their God, and they longed to be free to announce it. They longed for God’s visible organization to be rebuilt for announcing his kingdom worldwide.
18. Outline some of the good things that the message of liberation contained in modern times.
18 The good news to them corresponded with the good news to ancient Zion long ago. The good news included the information that Great Babylon had fallen; also, that the Greater Cyrus, Jesus Christ, reigning since the end of the Gentile Times in 1914, had conquered her and had issued his decree for liberating the remaining ones of Zion’s seed who had been held captive by Great Babylon but who had now come under a new victorious rulership. The good news announced that something better on earth was in store; that God’s visible organization on earth was to be rebuilt and put in better condition for his service, and that the temple class, the symbolic “living stones,” were to be erected for the worship of the only living and true God in a purer way than they had previously carried on. The good news announced that Great Babylon’s fall was proof that she was no longer Mistress, at least not over them, but that their God, Zion’s God, was their reigning King. He had become King, even over territory over which Great Babylon had held sway, and now his kingdom must be preached in all the inhabited earth as a message of liberation to still others.
19. Explain how the joy of the watchmen of Zion reflects the joy of all of Zion’s exiled children.
19 Zion is joyful at receiving back her exiled children and becoming again a city teeming with worshipers of her God Jehovah, after having lain desolate for seventy years. Her own joy is reflected by that of her watchmen, those who are on the lookout for her spiritual interests. Who is it that brings the exiles back, sustaining them along the way? It is Jehovah. It is so evidently His doing that it is as if Zion’s watchmen see Jehovah face to face, with eyes looking to eyes, when the exiles returning from Babylon under his invisible leadership approach the city to within eyeshot of her watchmen. “Listen!” says Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa 52:8) to desolated Zion, “Your own watchmen have raised their voice. In unison they keep crying out joyfully; for it will be face to face that they will see when Jehovah gathers back Zion [by gathering back her exiles].”
20, 21. Since liberation was plainly from Jehovah, what became more and more prominent to those liberated, and so what action did they take in 1931?
20 The bringing back of the “remaining ones of her seed” to God’s free “woman” Zion from 1919 onward was plainly Jehovah’s work by his enthroned Son, Jesus Christ, the Greater Cyrus. The governing body of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah were clear-sighted and far-sighted enough to see this fact. Unitedly these spiritual watchmen rejoiced and cried out joyfully at seeing the increasing procession of exiles returning from captivity in Great Babylon. Because they saw Jehovah’s part in the liberation, with their eyes of spiritual discernment looking to his compassionate eyes, Jehovah took on more and more prominence in the visible organization of his liberated people. His name properly took on more importance than that of Jesus his Son. He was to be honored above his Son Jesus Christ. It was His universal sovereignty that was to be vindicated, cleared of all reproach; in fact, his universal sovereignty was the paramount issue before all the living universe.
21 So it was that, in 1931, when Jehovah had brought back practically all the exiled remnant of her seed to Zion, they embraced the name of Jehovah’s witnesses, to distinguish themselves from all those who were merely Christian in name.—Isa. 43:10-12, 21; 44:8.
22. What divine command of Jehovah recorded by Isaiah now became the responsibility of God’s liberated people?
22 Because of Jehovah’s bringing her exiles back, Zion and her surroundings took on a different appearance. She came to be as in a paradise. There was the highest reason for everything about her to rejoice, to take on a beauteous, glad appearance. The divine command, in Isaiah 52:9, 10, is for all his comforted people, all his redeemed organization, to show appreciation for what their God has done: “Become cheerful, cry out joyfully in unison, you devastated places of Jerusalem, for Jehovah has comforted his people; he has repurchased Jerusalem [so that she is again his property]. Jehovah has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth must see the salvation of our God.”
23. How have Jehovah’s people proved they are liberated from captivity to Great Babylon?
23 Jehovah bared his almighty holy arm before Great Babylon and all the nations by liberating his contrite, brokenhearted remnant in 1919 and thus comforting them. The faithful remnant made known this salvation of His people from Great Babylon by thereafter going to the very ends of the earth to serve as his Christian witnesses and to preach the good news of his Messianic Kingdom now reigning in the heavens since 1914. Had they continued as captives to Great Babylon they could not have done this. So in this current year of 1964 the Kingdom message is being preached in 194 lands under the supervision of this comforted, repurchased remnant of Zion’s seed. Their free action in preaching God’s kingdom everywhere is visible, audible proof that Jehovah has liberated them. In this practical way “all the ends of the earth” have seen God’s salvation of his people. He uses them as his messengers of liberation.
24, 25. (a) To be used as messengers of liberation, what break did Jehovah’s people have to make? (b) What did this prove concerning Great Babylon, and how was the exit from Babylon made?
24 To be used worldwide as his messengers of liberation to all true lovers of religious freedom, the remnant of Zion’s seed yet on earth since 1919 were first themselves obliged to act on God’s message of liberation through his Greater Cyrus Jesus Christ. They had to obey their God’s command, in Isaiah 52:11, 12: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her, keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah. For you people will get out in no panic, and you will go in no flight. For Jehovah will be going even before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”
25 For such a command to be issued and to be acted upon, it required first that Great Babylon should fall, and that her Conqueror, the Greater Cyrus, should issue his decree of liberation. Great Babylon has fallen! That is why the anointed remnant of Zion’s seed began turning away from her since the year 1919 and the full number of them have now been gathered. They do not want to touch the unclean thing or be in the midst of it anymore. They want to keep religiously clean, in order to practice pure, undefiled, acceptable worship in the sight of Jehovah their God. They have carried with them, not the Babylonish religious practices and traditions and doctrines of demons, but the pure utensils of Jehovah’s worship, pictured by the sacred utensils that the Babylonians stole from Jehovah’s temple in 607 B.C. when Jerusalem was destroyed. They have left Great Babylon, not wildly and in confusion like the radical elements of this world, but in theocratic orderliness, under divine guidance. Jehovah their God has gone before them! Although the enemy has dogged their rear, Jehovah God has been a rear guard to them. That is why today they are out of Great Babylon! They are here, serving as free messengers of liberation, here in 1964!
26. Who have now joined the liberated remnant, and what are they doing to show their desire to serve God freely?
26 But they are now not alone! Because they have fearlessly preached the good news of God’s kingdom of liberation, “all the ends of the earth” have seen the salvation of God in behalf of Zion and the remnant of her spiritual children. Just as, away back in 537 B.C., there were upward of 7,537 slaves and professional singers that got out of the midst of Babylon with the Israelite remnant, so there is something similar today. A “great multitude” of persons located in “all the ends of the earth” have observed Jehovah’s salvation of the faithful remnant of spiritual Israelites, and in adoration they have turned to the worship of this glorious God of liberation. They have followed the remnant of spiritual Israelites out of Great Babylon and purified themselves from all her defilements and courageously dedicated themselves to the pure, holy worship of Jehovah God. (Ezra 2:64, 65; Neh. 7:66, 67; Rev. 7:9-17) They have entered into the enjoyment of their religious freedom. They have offered themselves to serve with the remnant as messengers of liberation, and God has been pleased to send them forth.
27. How much longer will the work of liberation continue, and for whose sake is the work done?
27 The fallen Great Babylon is now approaching her terrible destruction. Those who remain in her will be charged with a share in the responsibility for her sins and will be destroyed with her. Till her destruction at hands of Jehovah God, against whom she has sinned, there is a work of liberation to be done for the sake of all persons yet in her who long for religious freedom to worship the one living and true God. Their eyes yearn to see the comely feet of messengers of good news. The time is now short. To the work, then, all you free messengers of liberation!
a The Watch Tower issue of May 15, 1919, page 151, gave as the Memorial Supper attendance on the night of April 13, 1919, the total of 17,961, but this was only for “all classes which have thus far reported an attendance of thirty or more.” So that figure was far from the actual world total.
[Pictures on page 81]
Modern-day Messenger “Announcing the Kingdom”