True Worship Means Action
WHAT does your religion mean to you? Do you look upon religion as something good to have but which does not affect to any great extent your other activities, such as business or social affairs? Do you feel it is part of a good community spirit to attend church on Sundays and to contribute toward the church or some welfare activities that it is doing and perhaps engage from time to time in some community effort that the church is sponsoring? If you view your religion this way, there is something wrong with your worship. If your religion does not completely absorb you, mold every phase of your life’s activity twenty-four hours a day and energize you into real, live activity, then there is something lacking, for the true worship of the Almighty God is vibrant, vitalizing, a worship of constant action. Do you know that if you are a true worshiper of God you must be a publisher, and that publishing must be your chief concern?
Of what is the true worshiper a publisher, and to what extent must the publication be done? It is a proclamation in the widest sense, by the use of every proper means, in a loving manner to all creation. (Col. 1:23) The publication of the name of the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, must be done, and this must be done in a way that makes his name known aright. This God whose name alone is Jehovah was the God of the ancient Hebrews, the God who sent Jesus to earth and the God of Christians in this day. Jehovah’s dealings with his people of ancient times were a small-scale pattern of what he requires of his people in this time and were written down for our comfort and instruction. When we learn of the publishing work that he required of his people back there it gives us some idea of the work that is to be done today, only on a far greater scale.—Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11.
ALERT TO DISCERN GOOD NEWS
There was a time when God’s people forgot his name, that is, they forgot to appreciate what it stood for, and, as a result, lost the privilege of publishing that name and went into captivity to a pagan world power, that of Babylon. Jehovah gave his people advance warning before they went into captivity and, to cheer the hearts of sincere ones among them, he foretold their release and described the action they should take upon being released. He did this through his prophet Isaiah, whom he used to speak like a farsighted watchman standing at the desolated location of the city of Zion, which would lie desolate for seventy years. The watchman would be eagerly waiting for the release and return of the Jews to rebuild the temple of Jehovah and the city of Zion. We can imagine ourselves standing at the desolated place, hearing the watchman exclaim: “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.
From the location of Zion or Jerusalem, about 2,000 feet above the Mediterranean Sea level, the messenger coming with exciting news could be seen in the far distance as he approached. What was the news he published? It was news of Jehovah’s peaceful purpose toward Zion, his goodwill, the end of his disfavor upon his people. To the captives in Babylon who loved the worship of God and who loved Zion, it was exciting news, good news. It was something that they needed—a delight, a joy to them.
What was the content of the message? It had to do with Jehovah’s rulership and name. During the seventy years of captivity, Jerusalem, the city of “Jehovah’s throne” upon which the kings of the line of David had sat, was desolated, devoid of all God’s people, who were in captivity. No inhabitants at all were in the land of Judah. Therefore it appeared that, instead of Jehovah’s being the real invisible King, Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, was king. However, now the tables were turned and, with the “city of the great King” reestablished with its temple inside it, Jerusalem could be again told: “Your God has become king!” Even though the kings of the line of David were not reestablished upon the throne, yet Jehovah’s people were free and able to rebuild the city of Zion. So in a sense the fall of Babylon meant the establishment of the kingdom of God. The feet of the messenger coming with this wonderful news, though dusty and tired, would appear lovely to those who loved Zion and Jehovah God.
This prophetic messenger of the good news was a figure of something greater, just as Babylon was a picture of a much more extensive Babylon mentioned in Revelation as “Babylon the Great,” which is the world empire of false religion. The greater messenger is primarily the promised Messiah, the Anointed One of prophecy, the Christ, as the Greek-speaking Jews called him. His anointed footstep followers must copy him and follow in his footsteps; therefore they too must become messengers of the good news, with him as their leader. That this application is correct is proved by the statement of the apostle Paul at Romans 10:13-15: “For ‘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!’”
Isaiah continues the vision as though there were watchmen in Jerusalem awaiting this glorious messenger and says, at Isaiah 52:8: “Listen! 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.” So the watchmen of Jerusalem would be those Israelites who got the news regarding Zion’s restoration in advance of others and became responsible to pass the news on to the rest of Zion’s children. They were the ones to raise their voice together, with a loud cry. They would shout in unison so that others could know of the joyous news that God has become King! When Babylon fell in 539 B.C.E., faithful Jews knew, from Jeremiah’s prophecy, that it would soon be time for their liberation. (Jer. 25:11-14) When they actually saw Babylon fall into the hands of Cyrus, there was no doubt about it that this was Jehovah’s doing. It was not Cyrus the Persian who accomplished this by his own power, although he was a capable general. It was only Jehovah God himself who could have opened the gates of Babylon and delivered them from this mighty world power. So it was just as if the watchmen were seeing Jehovah face to face or eye to eye, that is, as if with eyes toward one another, as if their eyes were looking into his eyes, thus establishing a close, personal contact.—Num. 14:14.
A TIME FOR VIGOROUS ACTION
Therefore, it was no time for mourning nor any time for indifference or indolence. It was time for action. Isaiah continues: “Become cheerful, cry out joyfully in unison, you devastated places of Jerusalem, for Jehovah has comforted his people; he has repurchased Jerusalem. 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.” (Isa. 52:9, 10) Yes, it was a time for cheer, a time for joy and therefore a time for publishing this good news for all who would hear. Jehovah had, as it were, rolled up his sleeve and bared his arm in order to work at saving his people from Babylon. He did not do this inconspicuously or in secret but before all, and those living in the extremities of the inhabited earth must hear and see what God did to deliver his people. This meant that God’s name would be lifted up and he would be accepted by men as the living and true God and the Universal Sovereign.
At the time this took place there were many of the Jews living in different parts throughout the inhabited earth. These Jews of the Diaspora, or dispersion, must hear and they would give testimony to others concerning their salvation and could truly say: “This is our God.” Added to the weight of this international witness was the fact itself that Zion was reestablished and rebuilt, proving their words true about the power and might of their God.
Besides talking, there was action to be taken on the part of those exiled in Babylon. Isaiah prophetically shows them their responsibility, saying: “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.”—Isa. 52:11, 12.
CLEANSING FROM FALSE RELIGION ESSENTIAL
This required prompt, positive action. When the decree of Cyrus was given in 537 B.C.E., they must act immediately and turn away from Babylon and get out of this unclean place of false worship. They understood that God said, in effect: ‘Let go of all of Babylon’s religious uncleanness. Do not let any of it cling to you. Return to God’s pure worship. Get out of the midst of her and her idolatrous, God-defaming atmosphere. Go to the place where you can serve God and be clean religiously—the place of Jehovah’s worship.’
The most important reason for this admonition to be clean religiously and morally was the fact that these Israelites were to carry back the holy utensils that had been stolen by Nebuchadnezzar from Jehovah’s temple. Cyrus had permitted these to be released also, and the ones who were carrying them must cleanse themselves from any defilement from Babylon’s unclean religion. This must be not only in an outward, ceremonial way, but primarily in heart. Those who got away from Babylon must be going back holy to reestablish Jehovah’s worship; and it had to be so, for Jerusalem was at that time desolate and those returning were only those who were fully devoted and fully absorbed in seeing that Jehovah’s name was exalted. They had no political or materialistic motives.
Jehovah’s people knew what they were doing. They knew that he had delivered them and was with them. So, while their leaving Babylon was done quickly, there was no panicky flight. There was no attempt on their own part to establish their freedom. They had waited until God had caused the Babylonian Third World Power to fall. Thus neither they nor Cyrus were the ones to be given the credit for their release. We find that it was not like their departure 976 years earlier from the land of Egypt, where Pharaoh had urged them out, thrust them out, as Jehovah had foretold. While there was no disorder in the flight out of Egypt, still the Israelites were in some difficulty because of the haste, as Exodus 12:30-34, 39, states; they were driven out of Egypt and had not been able to linger. They had not had time to prepare provisions for themselves. They even carried their flour dough before it was leavened and their kneading troughs wrapped up in their mantles upon their shoulders. Nevertheless, the departure was orderly, as described at Exodus 13:18: “But it was in battle formation that the sons of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt [that is, like an army in five parts, with a van, a rear, a main body, and two wings].” (Margin of 1953 edition) Differently, for the departure from Babylon, they could make fuller advance preparations, and with Jehovah as their rear guard and protector they went out with dignity, orderliness and calm courage.
Those who left Babylon were assured that they would be able to reach Zion safely even though it was over a wilderness route stretching for hundreds of miles. With Jehovah before them as their leader the watchmen would, as it were, see face to face with Jehovah as he gathered them back to Zion. What a joyful occasion it must have been to the repatriates when the hill of Jerusalem or Zion appeared, just as it was a joyful sight to the watchmen when they saw the messenger of deliverance coming.—Isa. 52:8.
ACTION MORE THAN EVER REQUIRED OF CHRISTIANS
That all this was prophetic for Christians is shown by the apostle Paul when he quotes from Isaiah 52:11 and enlarges upon the meaning of these words, saying: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what sharing do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? For we are a temple of a living God; just as God said: ‘I shall reside among them and walk among them, and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing.”’”—2 Cor. 6:14-17.
Today there is action for those who are Christians. There is a vast publishing work to do, not only over a small area of the world, but over the entire inhabited earth. (Matt. 24:14) God’s people are watchmen. They see that Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, has fallen. It is exposed. Its false doctrines and fear of man, which once held them, can no longer hold back them or any other honest person who wishes to get out into the glorious freedom that comes to those who worship the true God Jehovah. Soon Babylon the Great will be completely destroyed. Therefore it is urgent for everyone who claims to be a worshiper of God to examine his religion and see whether he has this good news to publish. He must also check to see whether his organization is publishing this good news or not, to the greatest possible extent, namely, to the ends of the earth. And he must, as the faithful Jews did in returning to Zion, have his whole heart, mind and soul absorbed in publishing this information to others. If your religion is not a religion of action in publishing the name of Jehovah, it is death-dealing. Flee from it as a part of modern Babylon the Great. It is no place for worshipers of the true God. Come into the joyful position of proclaiming the good news that Jehovah God has become King. Soon his kingdom will bless those who hear and rise to action as publishers of the good news with life on an earth beautified with the peace and prosperity that only its Creator can give.