True Worship Under Challenge
“And there will certainly occur a time of distress such as has not been made to occur since there came to be a nation until that time. And during that time your people will escape.”—Dan. 12:1.
1. What kind of era started in 1914, and where do we find the answer to its problems?
THE year 1914 started something. Two great global wars, the overthrow of long-established empires and kingdoms, the rise of international communism, the attempts to bolster peace—first by the League of Nations and then by the United Nations—the advent of the space, missile and nuclear ages; this era of upheavals had its beginning back in 1914. And mankind is now faced with complex problems that threaten its very survival. What is back of this explosive situation? We must turn to God’s Word for the answer.
2, 3. (a) How does the “time of distress” get started? (b) Who is Gog, and how does he come to attack God’s “people Israel”?
2 The prophecy of Daniel, quoted above, tells us that this “time of distress” gets started when the archangel Michael stands up for the salvation of his people. And Revelation chapter 12, verses 7 to 9, describes this same Michael standing up, the enthroned King, Jesus Christ, hurling the archenemy, Satan, down from heaven to the vicinity of the earth. Thus Satan takes on the role of Gog, the enraged prince of demons, who storms forth from the limited spirit realm still left to him, the land of Magog, for a final assault upon the realm of true worship that God’s people now occupy on earth. Will Gog and his demon henchmen, and their mustering of the combined armies of the nations of earth with nuclear firepower, succeed in wiping out God’s true worshipers, the Christian witnesses of Jehovah? Let God’s own Word answer:
3 “Therefore prophesy, O son of man, and you must say to Gog, ‘This is what the Lord Jehovah has said: “Will it not be in that day when my people Israel are dwelling in security that you will know it? And you will certainly come from your place, from the remotest parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great congregation, even a numerous military force. And you will be bound to come up against my people Israel, like clouds to cover the land. In the final part of the days it will occur, and I shall certainly bring you against my land, for the purpose that the nations may know me when I sanctify myself in you before their eyes, O Gog.”’”—Ezek. 38:14-16.
4. How have events since 1914 been foreshadowed?
4 But how does Jehovah sanctify himself in Gog? The thrilling drama enacted in the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, in the eighth century before our Common Era, illustrates what happens today after the accession of a Greater-than-Hezekiah, Christ Jesus, to power in God’s heavenly kingdom in 1914 C.E.
PREPARING TO MEET THE THREAT
5, 6. (a) Describe Sennacherib’s advance. (b) What assurance did Jehovah give, and why is this of interest today?
5 The Assyrian hordes were on the move. Outwardly, it may have appeared in that ancient day of nationalistic strife that King Sennacherib was swinging into action against Egypt, his sole rival to world domination. But the cities of Judah lay in his line of march. One by one these were overwhelmed by the totalitarian flood. Isaiah 10:28-32 describes his fearsome advance, city by city, from Aiath to Nob, and now, within sight of the walls of Jerusalem, “he waves his hand threateningly at the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.” Are the people of Jerusalem dismayed? No, for “the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies,” himself has given marvelous assurance:
6 “Do not be afraid, O my people who are dwelling in Zion, because of the Assyrian, who with the rod used to strike you and who used to lift up his own staff against you in the way that Egypt did. For yet a very little while—and the denunciation will have come to an end, and my anger, in their wearing away.” (Isa. 10:24, 25) In the face of the modern-day threat of nationalism, we also may draw comfort from this prophetic assurance.
7, 8. (a) By what conspiracy did Satan move against the restored remnant? (b) In harmony with what other prophecy did Jehovah’s witnesses labor in preparation to meet the assault?
7 And why? In modern times, no sooner had the reigning King, Jesus Christ, restored the anointed remnant of Jehovah’s witnesses to their land of theocratic worship, in the year 1919, than Satan began to bring vicious opposition to bear upon them. Though the Germanic “king of the north” had suffered a severe head wound in World War I, he very soon became the leading partner in a new Satanic conspiracy to seize world domination and wipe out true worship in the earth. (Rev. 13:3) The history of the 1920’s and the 1930’s reveals the rise of the Nazi-Fascist-Catholic Action power that not only tried to overthrow the democratic nations, as pictured by the Egyptian “king of the south,” but also moved against the small, zealous group of Jehovah’s witnesses.
8 These worshipers of the true God had faith that the words of another of God’s prophets would be fulfilled: “And he [Christ] will certainly bring about deliverance from the Assyrian, when he comes into our land and when he treads upon our territory.” So they labored hard in the ministry, “to raise up against him seven shepherds, yes, eight dukes of mankind”—sufficient dedicated overseers, and more, to take the lead in worship. (Mic. 5:1, 5, 6) Moreover, by 1938, the theocratic structure had been fully restored in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses world wide, so that they were prepared, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, to withstand any “Assyrian” assault.
9. How did Hezekiah ward off the immediate threat, and of what significance may this be today?
9 Of the invasion in Hezekiah’s day, the record tells us: “And in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib the king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and proceeded to seize them.” In warding off the immediate threat, Hezekiah agreed to pay tribute to Sennacherib, and he even cut off the overlaid doors and doorposts from Jehovah’s temple, in order to make this payment. (2 Ki. 18:13-16) No doubt this was part of Hezekiah’s theocratic war strategy, a move to gain time, and to put him in a better position to grapple with the enemy. Likewise, today, there are occasions when Jehovah’s witnesses have to move cautiously in preserving their God-given right to true worship. In strongly nationalistic countries, open house-to-house or magazine witnessing is not always possible, and Jehovah’s people may have to yield this door of service to the enemy. However, by incidental witnessing, park witnessing, back-calling and studying with those known to be interested, and by other means, they continue their precious service to Jehovah, often at great personal cost.
10, 11. (a) What other wise steps did Hezekiah take, and why? (b) In the fulfillment, how have the remnant acted today?
10 But Hezekiah took other wise steps looking to the preservation of Jehovah’s city and temple of worship. “When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come with his face set for war against Jerusalem, then he decided with his princes and his mighty men to stop up the waters of the springs that were outside the city; and so they helped him. Accordingly many people were collected together, and they went stopping up all the fountains and the torrent that floods through the middle of the land, saying: ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and actually find a great deal of water?’” (2 Chron. 32:1-4) Instead, these precious water supplies were tunneled into the city.—2 Ki. 20:20.
11 In like manner, following the reactivation of true worship in 1919, the anointed remnant of Jehovah’s witnesses, representing Christ Jesus here on earth, has paid attention to the supplies of Kingdom truth, as provided by Jehovah through his Son. These refreshing waters of truth do not flow for the benefit of the willful opposers of Almighty God. They must be covered over against enemy interference. But through the building of factories, and the carrying out of printing activity throughout the earth, whether above ground or underground, the remnant has fulfilled its prophetic mission as “the faithful and discreet slave” by seeing that spiritual provision is made available “at the proper time” for all of God’s household on earth, and this despite bitter opposition in police states.—Matt. 24:45-47.
12, 13. (a) What was pictured by Hezekiah’s further courageous action? (b) Why may Jehovah’s servants now be glad?
12 “Furthermore, [Hezekiah] took courage and built up all the broken-down wall and raised towers upon it, and on the outside another wall, and repaired the Mound of the city of David, and made missiles in abundance and shields.” (2 Chron. 32:5) In the fulfillment, Christ Jesus has built up the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses for spiritual warfare, and has repaired the breaches made by Christendom’s apostate course over the centuries, as well as by their own failure to preach boldly during World War I. Moreover, the King has equipped his followers with “the large shield of faith” and “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” and has revivified them for theocratic service.—Eph. 6:16, 17.
13 Having this spiritual armor and an abundant supply of waters of truth, the remnant and their companion worshipers are indeed blessed, and so they may be glad, as were the sons of Korah who sang at Jehovah’s temple in Hezekiah’s day: “There is a river the streams of which make the city of God rejoice, the holiest grand tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it will not be made to totter. God will help it at the appearance of morning.” (Ps. 46:4, 5) How true, in ancient times and also today!
14, 15. (a) What timely encouragement was next provided? (b) What similar provision has been made today, and with what result?
14 Hezekiah now proceeded to assemble the people, and to “speak to the heart of them, saying: ‘Be courageous and strong. Do not be afraid nor be terrified because of the king of Assyria and on account of all the crowd that is with him; for with us there are more than there are with him. With him there is an arm of flesh, but with us there is Jehovah our God to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people began to brace themselves upon the words of Hezekiah the king of Judah.” (2 Chron. 32:6-8) What a grand assembly of encouragement that must have been! As at assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses today, so then, words of upbuilding counsel went right to the hearts of the Judeans, encouraging them to be fearless in the face of the nationalistic threats of those who can do no more than “kill the body.”—Matt. 10:28.
15 As the modern-day Nazi-Fascist-Catholic Action threat increased, Jehovah continued to provide timely encouragement through his channel on earth. The Watchtower magazine of November 1, 1933, published most strengthening information in the article, “Fear Them Not.” And as Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany and other totalitarian lands began to suffer concentration-camp imprisonment and torture, articles on Daniel’s prophecy in the October, November and December, 1934, issues of The Watchtower strengthened them to endure in the ‘crucible’ of persecution and to survive the “lions’ pit.” The flood of totalitarian nationalism was powerless to breach their Christian integrity, even as it is powerless to do so today, thirty years later.
THE ISSUE DRAWN
16. (a) What situation now existed in Judah? (b) What demonic purpose lies behind Satan’s propaganda today?
16 But now Sennacherib has devastated many of the cities of Judah. He is encamped against Lachish, one of the last outposts, some thirty miles to the southwest of Jerusalem, “and all his imperial might with him.” (2 Chron. 32:9) Likewise in modern times, Satan the Devil has invaded the land of Jehovah’s worship, and he has gathered “the kings of the entire inhabited earth” to fight against God’s people and to take Satan’s side in “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” at Har–Magedon. In furtherance of this purpose, Satan has whipped up demonic propaganda, which proceeds not only from his own dragon mouth but also “out of the mouth of the wild beast [the animalistic political system of earth] and out of the mouth of the false prophet [the loudmouthed Anglo-American Empire].” (Rev. 16:13, 14, 16) All this croaking in support of the tottering nationalistic governments, the divided UN and other human agencies, is, in effect, the mouthing of opposition to Jehovah’s established kingdom by Christ.
17. How does the modern Rabshakeh try to get through to Jehovah’s witnesses with his propaganda?
17 Ah, but the intent of Satan’s propaganda is also to break down and intimidate those who are truly serving God on earth at his place of worship. And how well this is pictured by Sennacherib’s sending Tartan, Rabsaris and Rabshakeh with a heavy military force to taunt the Judeans shut up in Jerusalem! Rabshakeh, whose name appears to be a title signifying “Chief Cupbearer,” is spokesman for the group, the one entrusted with pouring out a potion of Assyrian propaganda for the Jews. He is a renegade Jew, according to Josephus, and able to speak “the Jews’ language.” And, like Rabshakeh, Satan’s cupbearers today try to get through to Jehovah’s witnesses with intimidating words that will, they hope, swerve these from their integrity to God.
18. What hateful actions resulted from the propaganda of World War II years, but did these succeed in their purpose?
18 This corresponds well with the critical late 1930’s and early 1940’s, when Satan’s propagandists, including Christendom’s clergy, whipped up white-hot hatreds against Jehovah’s witnesses, demanding that they pay homage to the swastika, or whatever other flag might be the local emblem of nationalism. Under the dictatorships, Jehovah’s witnesses were thrown into prison camps and killed. In democratic lands, they were set upon by howling mobs, their homes and meeting places broken into and wrecked, and their children expelled from the schools—and all as a result of nationalistic propaganda. But with all his threats, the modern-day “Rabshakeh” failed to dent the integrity of God’s witnesses. They zealously continued their service to God, with the result that the 71,509 ministers reporting service in the year before World War II broke out, in 1939, increased to 141,606 in 1945, the year the war ended.
19, 20. (a) How did Rabshakeh speak in mockery of Jehovah? (b) In the fulfillment, how are his boasts partly true, partly false?
19 Rabshakeh spoke in mockery of the true God, Jehovah: “This is what Sennacherib the king of Assyria has said, ‘In what is it that you are trusting while sitting quiet under siege in Jerusalem? Is not Hezekiah alluring you so as to give you over to die by famine and by thirst, saying: “Jehovah our God himself will deliver us out of the palm of the king of Assyria”? . . . Who was there among all the gods of these nations that my forefathers devoted to destruction that proved able to deliver his people out of my hand, so that your God should be able to deliver you out of my hand? And now do not let Hezekiah deceive you or allure you like this and do not put faith in him, for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of my hand and out of the hand of my forefathers. How much less, then, will your own God deliver you out of my hand?’”—2 Chron. 32:10-15.
20 How true, in the fulfillment, that the gods and religions of the peoples of earth have not been able to preserve them from falling victims to nationalism! In time of crisis, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists and others have all been caught up into the mesh of nationalistic war machines. But real Christians, the spiritual Judeans who trust in Jehovah and the God-strengthened Christ, are not frightened by taunting threats. Patiently, they wait on Jehovah.
21, 22. (a) What tempting offer did Sennacherib next make? (b) How did the people respond, providing what precedent for us today?
21 The king of Assyria offered a tempting reward at the price of compromise: “Make a capitulation to me, and come out to me, and eat each one from his own vine and each one from his own fig tree and drink each one the water of his own cistern, until I come and I actually take you to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil-olive trees and honey; and keep living that you may not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah, for he allures you, saying, ‘Jehovah himself will deliver us.’” Why, even neighboring Israel has fallen! However, “the people kept silent and did not answer him a word, for the commandment of the king was, saying: ‘You must not answer him.’”—2 Ki. 18:31-36.
22 Likewise, today, Jehovah’s witnesses do not wrangle or debate with Satan’s propagandists. Rather, they heed the example of Hezekiah and his illustrious forefather, King David, who said: “I will set a muzzle as a guard to my own mouth, as long as anyone wicked is in front of me.”—Ps. 39:1.
23. How did modern-day Jehovah’s witnesses turn back a Sennacherib-like offer?
23 The Assyrian’s offer resembles that made by the Nazis to Jehovah’s witnesses while in German concentration camps. After these Christians had been imprisoned for years because of their refusal to heil the Nazi “god,” they were offered their freedom—on the condition that they sign a renunciation of their faith. What was their reply? An eyewitness writes: “They could have been immediately freed if they had renounced their faith. But, on the contrary, they did not cease resistance, even succeeding in introducing books and tracts into the camp, which writings caused several among them to be hanged.”* Even with the danger of death, they held to true worship and kept integrity to Jehovah, the Supreme Sovereign and God of resurrection.
24. (a) Why was Hezekiah grieved, and how did he act? (b) What is pictured today in Hezekiah’s turning to the prophet Isaiah?
24 Hezekiah was grieved at heart on hearing the words of Rabshakeh. Was this because of fear of those who might now “kill the body” or of the cruel tortures that the sadistic Assyrians might inflict upon him and his fellow Judeans? Not at all! Hezekiah was grieved because of the vile reproaches heaped upon Jehovah’s name. So “he immediately ripped his garments apart and covered himself with sackcloth and came into the house of Jehovah.” He sought communion with Jehovah at his place of worship. (2 Ki. 19:1) And today the anointed remnant of Jehovah’s witnesses and their companions, who serve under the Greater-than-Hezekiah, Christ, find strength and comfort in times of stress in zealous service to God and association together as his temple worshipers. Moreover, they inquire for the right course from the “faithful and discreet slave” organization of Jesus’ anointed followers on earth. In the same way, in the crisis involving Jehovah’s name, Hezekiah looked for counsel to Jehovah’s channel of communication—the faithful prophet Isaiah.—2 Ki. 19:2.
25, 26. (a) For what do God’s people have ‘no power in the day of distress’? (b) But what assurance did Isaiah give?
25 Humbling themselves in sackcloth, Hezekiah’s household officials and the elder priests proceeded to say to Isaiah: “This is what Hezekiah has said, ‘This day is a day of distress and of rebuke and of scornful insolence; for the sons have come as far as the womb’s mouth, and there is no power to give birth. Perhaps Jehovah your God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his lord sent to taunt the living God, and he will actually call him to account for the words that Jehovah your God has heard. And you must lift up prayer in behalf of the remnant that are to be found.’” (2 Ki. 19:3, 4) In their own strength, Jehovah’s people are powerless to survive the threat of nationalism. But what of Jehovah’s strength? What assurance did Isaiah give in this regard?
26 “Then Isaiah said to them: ‘This is what you should say to your lord, “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard with which the attendants of the king of Assyria spoke abusively of me. Here I am putting a spirit in him, and he must hear a report and return to his own land; and I shall certainly cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.’”’”—2 Ki. 19:5-7.
27. How will prophecy be fulfilled in the breaking of the nationalistic kings and the destruction of Satan’s organization?
27 Ah, here was positive assurance that Sennacherib would at last be led back in abject defeat! And today, through his word of prophecy, Jehovah has likewise assured his integrity-keeping witnesses that Satan and his armed hosts will be finally crushed. As for the nationalistic “king of the north,” it is foretold that “there will be reports that will disturb him,” reports from the direction of Jehovah and his King, and conveyed through the anointed witnesses on earth, that will goad this “king” into rage against God’s people. But then Jehovah will act! The totalitarian “king of the north” will perish, “and there will be no helper for him.” The “king of the south” will also be broken “without hand.” (Dan. 11:44, 45; 8:25) The entire earthly organization of Satan will be “hurled into the fiery lake” of eternal destruction. What comforting assurance from Jehovah!—Rev. 19:20.
28. What provision did Jehovah make, and how did His witnesses answer the challenge of nationalism?
28 But what of the crisis that faced Jehovah’s witnesses as the clouds of World War II threatened? With nationalism now the issue in democratic as well as totalitarian lands, Jehovah lovingly strengthened his people with “food at the proper time.” The article “Neutrality” in The Watchtower of November 1, 1939, helped many to chart an uncompromising course through the nationalistic storms of World War II. Jehovah’s witnesses refused the doctrine that they should slay their fellow Christians who happen to live in a different nation. At the cost of reproaches, imprisonments and even life itself, they held to their Christian neutrality, displaying a ‘love among themselves’ that transcended all nationalistic barriers. They proved themselves to be “no part of the world” of the modern Sennacherib. Their resolute stand on behalf of Bible principle provided a complete answer to the propagandists. Jehovah’s name was honored!—John 13:34, 35; 17:14.
29. (a) Corresponding to the type, what temporary relief did Jehovah’s witnesses gain at the close of World War II? (b) But why must we expect further difficulties?
29 From the record it appears that Sennacherib did not immediately follow through on Rabshakeh’s boastful challenge. This may have been due to a temporary reverse suffered at the hands of Tirhakah, ruler of Egypt to the south. This could well correspond to the democratic nations’ swallowing up the totalitarian “river,” spewed out by Satan with the prime intent of engulfing the anointed remnant, who represent Jehovah’s womanlike organization on earth. But this relief gained at the close of World War II is at most only temporary. Gog of Magog is still on the loose! The prophecy says of him: “And the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” (Rev. 12:15-17) And the final outcome? This we shall now see!
Genevieve de Gaulle, niece of General de Gaulle, in a letter to the Watch Tower Society.