Rejoicing in the God of True Worship
1. How does the world situation today parallel that of 2,700 years ago?
LET us turn back the pages of history some 2,700 years. Nearly three millenniums! someone exclaims. What in that day and age could interest us moderns of this smart twentieth century? There is really much to interest us. For the critical world situation of today, with its fearful possibilities, finds a striking parallel in the threat that the ancient Assyrian Empire posed to all other nations in that heyday of its power. Heated emotions of nationalism rose to the boiling point. And in this nuclear age, radical, dictatorial powers are again whipping the earth into a ferment of nationalistic disunity. Thus the same question now comes to the fore as in the day of the proud Assyrian: Who may successfully meet the challenge of nationalism, and survive?
2, 3. (a) In what way was Hezekiah’s reign noteworthy? (b) In the psalms collected by Hezekiah, who and what are exalted, and with what prophetic import?
2 It was in the eighth century B.C.E. that the Assyrian World Empire reached a zenith of power. It was in that period, too, in the year 745, that Hezekiah, like David and Solomon before him, came to sit “upon Jehovah’s throne as king” in Jerusalem. “And he continued to do what was right in Jehovah’s eyes, according to all that David his forefather had done.” (2 Ki. 18:3; 1 Chron. 29:23; 2 Chron. 29:2) He was wholehearted in his support of the true worship of Jehovah. He collected many of the psalms into book form for temple worship, including those composed by David. Hezekiah himself may have written Psalm 33 quoted above, as well as other psalms that appear to extol Jehovah because of his triumph over the Assyrian.
3 These psalms rise to sublime heights in praising Jehovah as the great Deliverer. They exalt true worship as the way to salvation and enduring happiness. Beyond compare is the eternal King, Jehovah, and how blessed the city of his true worship! “Jehovah is great and much to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Pretty for loftiness, the exultation of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the remote sides of the north, the town of the grand King. In her dwelling towers God himself has become known as a secure height.” Through the miraculous deliverance of his beloved nation in Hezekiah’s day, Jehovah gives a prophetic forevision of how he will save true worshipers from nationalistic oppressors of this modern age, to his name’s praise.—Ps. 48:1-5, 10.
THE THREAT OF NATIONALISM
4, 5. (a) What threat confronted the nations in Hezekiah’s time? (b) What counterpart does the aggressive Assyrian have today?
4 Second in the line of world powers of Bible history, Assyria was cruel and aggressive. Jehovah’s prophet, Nahum, called her capital, Nineveh, “the city of bloodshed,” and likened her to a prostitute “ensnaring nations . . . by her sorceries.” (Na 3:1, 4) In Hezekiah’s time, only Tirhakah, the Egypto-Ethiopian king to the south, presented any threat to Assyria’s supremacy. Between Assyria and Egypt lay the nations of Syria, Israel (Samaria), Philistia, Moab, Ammon and others, none strong enough to resist, even with the help of their pagan gods. Sooner or later, one or the other of Assyria’s succession of tyrannical rulers made them cold-war satellites, or else overran them in hot war and transplanted their people to other territories within the realm of Assyria.
5 Look, now, at modern times. Do we find a counterpart to the aggressive Assyrian? Most certainly we do! Dictatorial nationalism has found a similar expression in the successive powers of the “king of the north,” notably the German Kaiser, Nazi Hitler, and now the Communist dictators.a Moreover, nationalism is spreading like a poisonous vine into the Americas, the newborn African nations and throughout Asia. Never has the problem of displaced persons been so great in the earth. Aggressive and unreasoning, nationalism stirs up emotional fervors. As a result, earth’s 3,300,000,000 inhabitants are being divided into segments according to the nation where they happened to be born. They are being enslaved to the state.
6. According to one authority, how has nationalism become a roadblock?
6 Students of world affairs are awakening to the danger imposed by the cresting wave of nationalism. One of these is the British historian, Arnold Toynbee, who wrote an exclusive article for the Tokyo Yomiuri Shimbun of January 1, 1965. This appeared under a five-column heading, “Nationalism Threatens Survival of Human Race in the Atomic Age,” and said in part:
“It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that nationalism is today 90 percent of the religion of 90 percent of mankind. Nationalism is the most potent of the three current ideologies. Communists and capitalists agree in being nationalists first and foremost. . . . This paramount devotion to nationalism is shared today not only by communists and capitalists but by Westerners and non-Westerners, ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ peoples, Buddhists, Shintoists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Parsees. It is ironical that we should be united in being devoted to an ideology that divides us. Besides being ironical, this is perilous; for, in the Atomic Age, mankind’s hope of survival lies in managing to grow together into something like a single worldwide family. We are making efforts to move in this direction, but nationalism stands, like a roadblock, between us and our goal—the goal that we have to reach if we are to survive.”
How can mankind get over this roadblock?
7, 8. (a) Identify the originator and chief sponsor of nationalism. (b) What fate awaits him, and why?
7 It is important, first, that we identify the originator and chief sponsor of nationalism. In Assyria, nationalism was fostered by King Sennacherib. His name means “Sin (the moon-god) Has Increased His Brothers.” He pictures Satan the Devil, who has drawn other heavenly angels into rebellion against Jehovah God, so that he has become “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” (Matt. 12:24) These demons he has set up as princes over the nationalistic divisions of mankind, two of them being “the prince of the royal realm of Persia” and “the prince of Greece.” (Dan. 10:13, 20) Proudly, Satan boasts concerning this demonic rule over the nationalistic divisions of earth: “Are not my princes at the same time kings?” (Isa. 10:8) Indeed, “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—1 John 5:19.
8 In his own annals, Sennacherib glories in “the terror-inspiring splendor of my lordship.” Appropriate, then, is Jehovah’s judgment pronounced on this braggart: “And it must occur that when Jehovah terminates all his work in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, I shall make an accounting for the fruitage of the insolence of the heart of the king of Assyria and for the self-importance of his loftiness of eyes.” (Isa. 10:12) In the final fulfillment of this prophecy, we can know that the archenemy, Satan, will be brought down in destruction and that the spirit of nationalism that he fans into a flame throughout the earth will likewise be quenched into nothingness. But how?
WORLD RELIGION A BULWARK?
9. Where do some look for the answer to nationalism, and what questions are raised thereby?
9 World religion—is not that the answer to the advancing hordes of nationalism? Cannot protection be found in a revival of religion—all kinds of religion? In crises such as the present one, there are some who start attending ‘the church of their choice,’ or who return to the religion of their ancestors. They expect that in some way the world empire of religion can hold together and stem the threat to human survival. But can it? Is not nationalism itself a religion?
10-12. (a) What ancient examples should serve as a warning today? (b) Into what snare did Israel fall, and with what result?
10 The fate of the religious nations that opposed the ancient Assyrian should warn of the fallacy of trusting in the many traditional religions today. The ten-tribe kingdom of Israel is an example. This nation had known Jehovah, the God of the Bible. And even after its people had turned aside into idolatry, Jehovah continued to favor them by sending them his prophets. However, they were rebellious and self-satisfied, preferring “couches of ivory” and materialistic luxury to the worship of Jehovah. (Amos 3:15; 6:1-6) In their apostasy they chose a fusion religion, which combined the degraded religious practices of the nations around them with the blasphemous calf worship whereby their kings made a pretense of invoking Jehovah. The Bible describes the outcome:
11 “And they kept leaving all the commandments of Jehovah their God and proceeded to make for themselves molten statues, two calves, and to make a sacred pole, and they began to bow down to all the army of the heavens and to serve Baal; and they continued to make their sons and their daughters pass through the fire and to practice divination and to look for omens, and they kept selling themselves to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah, to offend him; therefore Jehovah got very incensed against Israel, so that he removed them from his sight. He did not let any remain but the tribe of Judah alone.”—2 Ki. 17:16-18.
12 The religion of Israel’s choice failed to save them. But what of Judah, and its religion?
13. How did Ahaz flirt with destruction?
13 Even while the Assyrian was overthrowing the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, Judah under King Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, was flirting with destruction. How? In this critical time, Ahaz declared himself “not interested” in Jehovah’s counsel through his prophet, Isaiah. (7:10-12) Instead, he turned to worldly diplomacy, compromised with Assyria and—worst of all—enforced loathsome, immoral religious practices in Judah, so that there was “an acting with great unfaithfulness toward Jehovah.”—2 Chron. 28:19.
14, 15. (a) What warning was given about a falling away in later times? (b) What parallel to Ahaz’s course do we find in the history of Catholicism?
14 Does this falling away have any parallel in later times? Why, surely it does! The Christian Greek Scriptures record a warning that the apostle Paul gave, about the year 56 C.E., to overseers of the youthful Christian congregation in its purity. He told them that “oppressive wolves” would enter in among them “and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) True to warning, this apostasy appeared in the next century, when professed Christian leaders started to fall away from true doctrine and worship, and it became complete in 325 C.E., with Constantine’s establishing Catholicism as the state religion of the Roman Empire and adopting the pagan “trinity” as “the central doctrine of the Christian religion.”b How like Ahaz’s replacing Jehovah’s altar at the temple of Jerusalem—the focal point of true worship—with a pagan altar of idolatrous worship!—2 Ki. 16:10-18.
15 In the same way that Ahaz remodeled the temple and fostered Baal worship throughout the land, so apostate “wolves” proceeded to corrupt the structure of the Christian congregation. They made themselves into a clergy class to lord it over the laity in false worship. On the admission of one of its cardinals, the Catholic church brought in many of the “instruments and appendages of demon-worship,” which it claims to have “sanctified by their adoption into the church.”c In course of time, apostate Christianity adopted the Greek Plato’s philosophy of an inherently immortal soul, and to this it added the “hellfire” and “purgatory” teachings.d Not content with myths of torture after death, the Catholic Inquisition of the thirteenth century introduced fiery tortures for “heretics” in this life. Catholic crusades sacrificed other innocent lives on the altar of carnal warfare.
16. In what has Protestantism failed?
16 Then, in the sixteenth century, the Reformation brought forth Protestantism. Although Protestantism at first challenged some of the abuses of Catholicism, it failed to shake itself free from most of the “appendages of demon-worship.” Very soon it became involved in the wars and politics of Christendom. The divided sects of Protestantism have found no answer to the world problems of today.
17. (a) What did the death of Ahaz foreshadow? (b) What choice did Christendom’s religions then make, with what outcome, and why?
17 In 745 B.C.E. King Ahaz died, and this marked the end of an era. Likewise, the year 1914 C.E. marked the end of the “appointed times of the nations,” during which God had permitted nationalism and its gods to hold uninterrupted sway over the earth. Now, with World War I, the present-day “pangs of distress” began. (Luke 21:24; Matt. 24:8) In the frenzy of war, Christendom’s religions chose nationalism ahead of Christian unity. The clergy urged on Catholic to kill Catholic, and Protestant to kill Protestant, and the apostate sects of so-called “Christianity” showed themselves to be as dead spiritually as King Ahaz is physically. They proved that they had lost their real identity as Christians in the same way that Israel lost any remaining identity as God’s nation when it was overthrown by the Assyrian and its people were transplanted within his empire. And why? “Over the fact that they had not listened to the voice of Jehovah their God . . . They neither listened nor performed.”—2 Ki. 18:12; Dan. 11:29.
TRUE WORSHIP TO THE FORE!
18, 19. (a) Identify Jehovah’s Champion of true worship. (b) How was this Champion and his work pictured by Hezekiah?
18 But Jehovah has a Champion of true worship! This one does not fail in the crucial hour. He is the Founder of the real Christianity, Jehovah’s anointed King, Christ Jesus. The psalmist writes of him, prophetically: “You have loved righteousness and you hate wickedness. That is why God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of exultation more than your partners.”—Ps. 45:7.
19 One of Jesus’ “partners” in the Kingdom covenant, which Jehovah made with David, was Ahaz’s son, good King Hezekiah. His name means “Jehovah Has Strengthened.” It appears that, even before Jehovah established Hezekiah as king in Judah, he may have served for a time as coregent with Ahaz. No doubt he then began to show strength in behalf of true worship. Today, also, Christ began to do a preparatory work among sincere Christians on earth prior to receiving his kingdom. It was in this connection that the Watchtower magazine began to be published in 1879, in strong support of the Christian doctrine of the ransom and other Bible truths.
20. (a) What prophecies did Jehovah fulfill toward Christ in 1914 and thereafter? (b) How are the “chosen ones” saved?
20 Then, in the epoch-marking year 1914, Jehovah installed Christ in Kingdom power in heaven, thus fulfilling toward him the prophecy: “The rod of your strength Jehovah will send out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.’” (Ps. 110:2) Forthwith, God’s Champion hurled the archenemy, Satan, out of heaven and down to the vicinity of the earth. This has meant “woe for the earth,” as we see all around us today. (Rev. 12:7-9, 12) But God now cut short the tribulation on his enemies, so that the “chosen ones” might be saved. (Matt. 24:21, 22) How saved? By being gathered to true worship at Jehovah’s spiritual temple. It is thrilling to examine how Hezekiah’s bold action in Judah typifies Christ’s restoring true worship among the “praisers” of Jehovah on earth in modern times.
21. What was foreshadowed by Hezekiah’s prompt action in opening and repairing the temple doors?
21 Right early at the beginning of his reign, Hezekiah attended to something very close to his heart. He “opened the doors of the house of Jehovah and began to repair them.” (2 Chron. 29:3) True worship must be restored! Likewise, with Satan and his demons ousted from heaven, Jehovah and his kingly Son proceeded to fulfill Malachi’s prophecy: “‘And suddenly there will come to His temple the true Lord [Jehovah], whom you people are seeking, and the messenger of the covenant [Christ] in whom you are delighting. Look! He will certainly come,’ Jehovah of armies has said. . . . ‘And he must sit as a refiner and cleanser of silver and must cleanse the sons of Levi; . . . and they will certainly become to Jehovah people presenting a gift offering in righteousness. And the gift offering of Judah and of Jerusalem will actually be gratifying to Jehovah, as in the days of long ago and as in the years of antiquity.’” (Mal. 3:1-4) Suddenly, in the year 1918, and while World War I was still raging at its height, this refining and cleansing of professed Christians commenced, with favor toward those who separated from the fallen religions of Christendom and came forward to serve Jehovah in righteousness.
22. How was “the impure thing” exposed from 1919 on?
22 This was no time to cover up the filthy record that apostate Christendom had made during the “times of the nations,” and even after that! So, Christ the King echoed the command given by Hezekiah of old: “Bring the impure thing out from the holy place.” (2 Chron. 29:5) Christendom, the instigator of war and bloodshed on a mass scale, must be exposed as judged and cast out by Jehovah. The release of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses from Babylonish captivity in 1919 showed that Christendom’s religion had then fallen, along with all the rest of the world empire of demon religion. Now, as “an object of astonishment and a cause for whistling,” it awaits only the execution of God’s righteous judgment.—2 Chron 29:8.
23. How has the Greater-than-Hezekiah concluded “a covenant with Jehovah” on behalf of real Christians?
23 How different the condition today of the faithful spiritual Levites, the anointed remnant of real Christians! The Greater-than-Hezekiah, Christ Jesus, has concluded “a covenant with Jehovah the God of Israel” on their behalf. He has renewed toward them the “new covenant,” with its provision for forgiveness of error, and has reactivated them for true worship. (Luke 22:20; Jer. 31:31-34) They are filled with the same spirit and resolve that Hezekiah stirred up in the priestly Levites: “Now, my sons, do not give yourselves up to rest, for you are the ones whom Jehovah has chosen to stand before him to minister to him and to continue as his ministers.”—2 Chron. 29:10, 11.
24. What open door has been set before the remnant?
24 Even as the doors of Jerusalem’s temple were opened and repaired, so now Christ offered the anointed remnant an open door of service, “which no one can shut.” (Rev. 3:8) Refreshed by Christian assemblies, notably those at Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A., in 1919, and again in 1922, they went forth witnessing boldly in answer to the call: “Advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.”
25. How has the antitypical house of Jehovah been cleansed, and its utensils restored?
25 However, these praisers of the true God must free themselves completely from pagan doctrine and practice. For example, during the years from 1919 onward, sanctimonious dress, the viewing of the great pyramid of Egypt as “the Bible in Stone,” the observance of pagan feasts such as the so-called “Christmas,” the use of pagan symbols such as the cross, and other religious uncleanness, persisted for a time. Such must be gotten rid of! “Utensils” appropriate to Jehovah’s worship must be brought into service. As God’s will was revealed progressively to them, the anointed remnant were happy to purify their temple worship, so that they could report back to their King in the same way that the priests and Levites reported back to Hezekiah: “We have cleansed the whole house of Jehovah, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils . . . And all the utensils that King Ahaz removed from employment during his reign in his unfaithfulness we have prepared, and have sanctified them; and there they are before the altar of Jehovah.” (2 Chron. 29:18, 19) The same pattern of true worship that Jesus had established in the first century was restored among true Christians on earth.
26. What is pictured by Hezekiah’s getting up early and gathering the princes to worship?
26 “And Hezekiah the king proceeded to get up early and gather the princes of the city together and go up to the house of Jehovah.” (2 Chron. 29:20) True to type, it was early in the post-World War I era that the King, Jesus Christ, gathered the remaining members on earth of Jehovah’s royal house—those who are to ‘rule as priests and kings with him for the thousand years’ of his Kingdom reign over earth. (Rev. 20:6) Then the priests proceeded to offer sacrifices on behalf of all, “because it was for all Israel that the king said the burnt offering and the sin offering should be.” (2 Chron. 29:24) In the fulfillment, all the remaining ones of the spiritual Judeans—the 144,000—must now be brought forth and sanctified as the true people for Jehovah’s name. This was in fulfillment, too, of another of the psalms: “Gather to me my loyal ones, those concluding my covenant over sacrifice.” (Ps. 50:5) As in Hezekiah’s day, all of these gathered according to Jehovah’s new-covenant arrangement, based on Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, “began to offer praise even with rejoicing.”—2 Chron. 29:30.
27, 28. (a) How was the gathering completed, and at what may God’s people now rejoice? (b) But what question remains to be answered?
27 The gathering was not completed in 1919, or even in 1922. More workers were needed to carry forward effectively the sacrifice of praise to Jehovah. Thus, there has been a noteworthy fulfillment of 2 Chronicles 29:34: “Only the priests themselves happened to be too few . . . So their brothers the Levites helped them out until the work was finished and until the priests could sanctify themselves, for the Levites were more upright of heart for sanctifying themselves than the priests.” As in the pattern, the remaining members of the anointed remnant of Christ’s followers were gathered in, particularly until 1931-1935, and many of these showed themselves even more zealous for Jehovah’s requirements and service than others who had been gathered earlier.
28 In the same way that “Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced” at the “sudden” restoration of true worship in that day, so the anointed remnant under Christ rejoiced that Jehovah has likewise “made preparation” for his people. (2 Chron. 29:36) But how does this help to answer the modern-day threat of nationalism? We shall see.
a See “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” pages 220-323.
b Quoting The Catholic Encyclopedia, under “Trinity, The Blessed.”
c Chapter 8, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 1878, by Cardinal Newman.
d Writing of this pollution of true doctrine and worship, J. L. von Mosheim says in his Ecclesiastical History: “As no one in those times objected to Christians retaining the opinions of their pagan ancestors respecting the soul, heroes, demons, temples, and the like and their transferring them into their devotions; and as no one proposed utterly to abolish the ancient pagan institutions but only to alter them somewhat and purify them, it was unavoidable that the religion and the worship of Christians should in this way become corrupted. This also I will add, that the doctrine of the purification of souls after death by means of some sort of fire, which afterwards became so great a source of wealth to the clergy, acquired in this age a fuller development and greater influence.”
[Picture on page 142]
Sennacherib, nationalistic counterpart of the chief enemy of true worship
[Picture on page 145]
“Bring the impure thing out.”