Why Almighty God Laughs at the Nations
“The very One sitting in the heavens will laugh; Jehovah himself will hold them in derision.”—Ps. 2:4.
1. What enjoyable thing is it now time for God to do, and what questions arise for us in that connection?
DO YOU enjoy a good laugh? The ability to laugh is one of the innumerable things that differentiate man from animals, birds and fish. Man was created to do one of the things that his Creator can do, and that is to laugh. It is now time for God to laugh. Is he laughing at you? Or, are you laughing with him? How can you know which is the case? What is it that amuses God your Creator and provokes him to laughter? What would it mean for God to laugh at us? Rather than be laughed at by our Creator, how can we today enjoy a good laugh with him and dismiss the worries that the world situation tends to cause?
2, 3. Why do the nations consider the world situation and the future outlook no laughing matter?
2 None of the nations of earth considers it a laughing matter, that is, the present world situation and the future outlook. Would you laugh, could you laugh, when business prosperity (what there is of it) is constantly threatened and is so uncertain because of shaky foundations? When the cost of running governments and the burdens of national debt increase? When the increasing number of nations cannot get along together as one big, closely knit family but national groups are all suspicious of one another, vying with one another in rivalries, arming militarily against one another, oppressing one another, embarrassing one another, spying on one another, seeking advantage over one another? When discontent of the peoples is rising and spreading so that governments find it hard to control the peoples? When the uprightness of men in office cannot be trusted and the loyalty of public servants and subordinates cannot be relied upon? When awesome regard for rightful authority wanes and resort to violent action is frequent and the rate speeds up of the committing of crimes?
3 Really, is it a laughing matter when the fight against poverty gets tougher for the governments? When the means of carnal warfare become more gruesome? When nuclear warfare is held back only by the fear of receiving back like for like and wrecking civilization and destroying all the earth’s inhabitants? When religious restraints no longer have any force to deter men from any kind of wrongdoing? No; when viewed objectively, all these things constitute no laughing matter.
4. Who have brought the nations into this state of affairs, and why has it all been so unnecessary?
4 Whether they are rank materialists or not, all people will have to agree that the nations have brought themselves into this state of affairs. Recorded human history down to the present day tells us that. But it has been all so unnecessary! Why so? Because a world remedy has been prepared and offered, and the nations refuse to accept it and thus take the only way out. The matter would be funny, if it were not so serious.
5. Under the circumstances, why have the nations not been wise in their course of action?
5 In the course that has been taken by the nations they are not wise. They look to themselves for the solution of their problems. They are certainly not looking to heaven. They rely upon the wisdom of their own wise men, statesmen and diplomats. But where has it got them by this year 1969? To the brink of self-destruction, not just by means of war but also by other powerful means. They are not disposed to turn back. They are too proud, too self-confident, too concerned with their own nationhood and sovereignty, too sophisticated and “realistic” to look beyond what is visible and material for the needed help. They look to the things created, instead of to the Creator himself. What today shows that the nations believe in a Creator? The Creator is ignored, the One who has kept all the universe in good order and with benefit to us on the earth. In comparison with the whole universe, our earth, which is a part of it, is so tiny! Reasonably, then, our earth should not be able to present too big a problem for him to straighten out.
6. In the future will the nations have a sudden burst of faith in the Creator, and yet what is it reasonable to believe about him?
6 Material science being the god of the nations in this Brain Age, they have no faith in an invisible God Almighty. If they have no faith in Him now, how could we expect a sudden burst of faith on the part of nations in the near future, when the worst comes and they are obliged to acknowledge their own helplessness and that of modern science? And yet it is only logical to believe that the Creator of the earth and of man upon it would have a remedy for man’s ills, an adequate remedy, the only remedy. For at least nineteen centuries the nations have had the means to know that the Creator, the true God, does have the one needed remedy.
7. Why in this case can there be no coexistence between God and man, each doing his own respective will side by side?
7 However, when nations stubbornly continue to turn down God’s provision, what ordinarily could we expect to result from this? Nothing less than that the nations would oppose God the Creator, fight against Him and against his means of saving the human race. This is according to the rule stated over nineteen centuries ago by a wise man whom Christendom claims to be “the Son of God”: “He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” (Matt. 12:30) If a man prefers and chooses his own plans and rejects God’s arrangement, how can he do God’s will and work peacefully with God? He cannot do so. There is no room for mere coexistence in this case, God and man doing each his respective will side by side. God’s will affects every man without exception. So how could a selfish man do anything else but work apart from God, differ from God and, in fact, fight against God? He puts himself above God as wiser than God and more capable, knowing better what is finest for his own self. Human history and experience prove this to be a fact.
8. How does secular human history compare with God’s inspired history, the Holy Bible?
8 Secular human history has been written by uninspired men of this world. They would not point out that God has had an accurate history written by men whom he inspired, in order to furnish a warning for mankind to heed. Yet a history of this kind, a history inspired by God and written by means of faithful men in his service, does exist and is to be found in the Holy Bible, the Sacred Scriptures. The Bible is a history about man that sets forth God’s dealings with him down till nineteen hundred years ago. It also prophesies concerning God’s further dealings with man after that time till now and for a thousand years into the future. Certainly it is of the highest importance to man to know what God the Creator has been doing in the thousands of years of man’s history. That is just what his written Book, the Bible, specializes on. Secular, worldly history does not do so. It exalts man, not God.
9. In what remarkable fact does the vital importance of the Bible lie, and how shall we keep from making ourselves a laughingstock to God?
9 The Bible reveals that God the Creator has had dealings with individual men, with individual families and with whole nations. It is not just a book of past history, dead history, rotting in the grave now for nineteen hundred years. Rather, from its very beginning the Bible has always been a forward-looking book, and this is so because it has been outstandingly a book of divine prophecy. Besides its direct prophecies for the future, many of the events that the Bible keeps a record of have been recorded because they are prophetic illustrations of future events, not excluding events of our day. In this remarkable fact lies the vital importance of the Holy Bible. It is the one Book that we dare not overlook or brush aside today. We do not propose to do so in our discussion here, although the nations have done so to their own confusion. By our not ignoring, but heeding, the inspired, prophetic Bible, we shall not make ourselves a laughingstock to God. We shall not have God laugh at us, as he now does at the nations of the world.
ALMIGHTY GOD HAS LAUGHED IN TIMES PAST
10. Nineteen centuries ago when God had a good laugh at the nations, what city figured prominently in world affairs, and in what section did some men think it was time for a change?
10 Nineteen centuries ago God Almighty had a good laugh at the nations of those days. This was in connection with the greatest fight of man against God in all human history until that time. Because of its prophetic meaning for our very own day, let us now turn to the Bible account of that event and then line it up with the course of events in twentieth-century history. Just as in our own day, the city of Rome, Italy, figured prominently in the news of that day in the first century of our Common Era. There was then no Vatican City in the midst of Rome dominating the worldwide realm of Roman Catholicism. The pagan emperor of the Roman Empire was still the Pontifex Maximus in religious circles, and at this particular time the emperor who was serving in the pontificate was Tiberius Caesar, the successor to Augustus Caesar, who had died on August 19 of the year 14 C.E. It was time for a change. At least, so a small group of persons thought in a certain pocket in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, which then encircled the Mediterranean Sea. A change did come—that was to affect our day.
11. Where and by whom did a new government then begin to be proclaimed?
11 Out of the desert over there in the Middle East came a voice proclaiming a new government. It was the voice of a man of the desert. His name had a kindly meaning, for it meant “Jah Is Gracious.” (Luke 1:59-80) It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Caesar, or the spring of 29 C.E., that this man of the desert, John by name, began to proclaim this new government. (Luke 3:1, 2) John was the son of a priest, but there is no record that he ever served as priest like his father at the temple in Jerusalem, the religious capital of the Roman province of Judea. John’s God, the gracious Jah or Jehovah, had more important work for him to do than serve at an earthly, material temple. Jehovah God had purposely raised up this John to act as a herald and forerunner of the ruler of the new government. So it was that at God’s own fixed time John made his appearance on the public stage and began proclaiming: “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 3:1, 2) Since it was to be “of the heavens,” that kingdom promised to be a righteous government, which the people needed to have back there no less than we do today.
12. What question do people ask about a government “of the heavens,” but what did John the Baptist mean by the “kingdom of the heavens”?
12 “But how can the heavens govern?” hardheaded, materialistic people of today will ask. Well, if they would read the Bible they would soon find out how “the heavens” have expressed themselves in a world-shaking way in the past and will do so in the fast-approaching future. Man’s shooting seventeen-ton rockets into outer space gives him no power or supremacy over “the heavens” of which John spoke. Man today thinks of heavens without considering God, but by the use of the inspired expression “the heavens,” John meant the Almighty God. The “kingdom of the heavens” that he proclaimed was “the kingdom of God.” That is why that kingdom had to be a good, righteous, perfect government. That is why the people had to be prepared for the coming of that government. In harmony with this fact, the Almighty God sent John to dip or immerse repentant persons bodily in water in symbol of their repentance over their sins committed against Almighty God.—Matt. 3:4-6; Mark 1:4-15.
13. How was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon made to realize that the rule of “the heavens” was real and personally managed?
13 No, indeed! The “kingdom of the heavens” that John heralded was no imaginary government, but was a government just as real and “activist” and personally managed as any political government of today, in London, Paris, Moscow, Peking, Washington, Rome, or elsewhere on earth. Hard-line political rulers of today may not appreciate that fact, but they will be made to do so before very long. They are not supermen any more than was Nebuchadnezzar, emperor of Babylon on the Euphrates River in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. Yet this mighty ruler of the Babylonian Empire was reduced to the level of a beast of the field for seven years in order that, as the prophet Daniel said to him, “you know that the heavens are ruling.” Here “the heavens” meant the Supreme Being, for, just before Nebuchadnezzar was struck down with beastlike madness he was told from the heavens that seven years would pass over him in this beastlike state “until you know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it.” After his miraculous recovery Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that fact.—Dan. 4:25-37.
14, 15. Was it for preaching the “kingdom of the heavens” that John was imprisoned, and who took up this preaching thereafter?
14 John was just as realistic about matters as political rulers of today are. He was not misleading people with a fond unrealizable dream. About a year after he began his proclaiming and baptizing he was put in prison by Herod Antipas, the district ruler of Galilee, but not for proclaiming “the kingdom of the heavens.” It was for insisting on right morals in this ruler who claimed to be subject to the law of John’s God, Jehovah. (Matt. 14:1-5) Hardheaded political rulers back there did not think that a kingdom, if it was “of the heavens” or “of God,” was going to interfere with their visible earthly kingdoms. However, this imprisonment stopped John’s public proclamation of God’s kingdom. But after his imprisonment began, his Kingdom proclamation was taken up by a man whom he had baptized in the waters of the Jordan River, about six months before his imprisonment. That man was a carpenter from Nazareth in Galilee, and his name was Jesus, the foster son of Joseph. So we read of this Jesus:
15 “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. Further, after leaving Nazareth, he came and took up residence in Capernaum . . . From that time on Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’”—Matt. 4:12-17; Mark 1:14, 15.
MAKING THEMSELVES LAUGHABLE
16, 17. (a) When District Ruler Herod Antipas got ahold of Jesus, whom did he really make laughable, and why? (b) How did John the Baptist bear witness that this was the Son of God?
16 Just about three years after this, District Ruler Herod Antipas and his soldier guard were making fun of Jesus, who was charged with attempting to make himself king instead of Tiberius Caesar. (Luke 23:8-12) This was only part of the evidence that nations were beginning to make their own selves laughable. When nations begin to deal mirthfully with the Son of God and to poke fun at him, it is really themselves that they make laughable. That is what they were doing back there when they ridiculed Jesus. At the time that John the Baptist immersed Jesus of Nazareth, he witnessed evidence from heaven that this Jesus was the Son of God. John afterward testified to people:
17 “I viewed the spirit coming down as a dove out of heaven, and it remained upon him. Even I did not know him, but the very One who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘Whoever it is upon whom you see the spirit coming down and remaining, this is the one that baptizes in holy spirit.’ And I have seen it, and I have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.”—John 1:32-34.
18. (a) Why did Jesus not have to do any politicial campaigning? (b) How did his enemies try to involve him in politics regarding the imperial tax?
18 In testimony of that fact, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said to his listeners: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Jesus the Son of God was anointed with God’s holy spirit to be the coming king in the “kingdom of the heavens.” He was anointed with that divine spirit to proclaim that “kingdom of the heavens” to the people for their comfort and guidance. This is what he did. (Luke 4:16-21; 8:1; Acts 10:38) He engaged in no political campaigning up and down the land, trying to win popular votes. He did not have to do this, for he was already elected, chosen, anointed by his heavenly Father, Jehovah God, to be the king in the heavenly Messianic kingdom of God. The many religious enemies whom he made tried to involve him in worldly politics, at least once when they asked him whether it was right for Jews under God’s law to pay tax to Caesar, whose empire over them they resented. Jesus adroitly squelched all revolutionary talk by answering: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 22:15-22) What Jesus told others to do, he himself did. He paid the head tax to Caesar as belonging to Caesar. He was no revolutionary.
19. After Jesus taught and preached for three years, how did the Jews show their attitude toward the “kingdom of the heavens”? (b) In the way that he sent his active followers into the field, how did Jesus show he was no revolutionary?
19 Was Jesus’ own nation in favor of the “kingdom of the heavens” that he preached? No, with the exception of a comparatively small remnant. Tens of thousands of Jews and Jewish proselytes heard him, but relatively few believed on him as the long-promised Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One. After three years of teaching and preaching by him the people came to him and said: “How long are you to keep our souls in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us outspokenly.” But Jesus left them to come to their own conclusions, leaving it up to their faith. At that time they were ready to stone him. (John 10:22-31) But from among those who believed on him and followed him as the Messiah or Christ he chose twelve apostles. These also, after being trained, he sent out to preach: “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 10:1-7) Later he sent out seventy other followers to proclaim the same message. (Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-11) All together, eighty-two preachers of God’s kingdom—but no guerrilla army armed with swords, lances, bows and arrows. How strange! Could an independent government be introduced and put in power over the nation of Israel by preaching? It is enough to make us laugh.
20. How do we know whether the religious leaders laughed after the resurrection of Lazarus and after Jesus’ triumphal ride into Jerusalem?
20 Once, though, it did not seem so laughable. This was after three years of such preaching. It was early spring of the year 33 of our Common Era, and up to that time the imperial Roman government over the Jews had done nothing about this Jesus Christ and his band of Kingdom preachers. But the religious leaders of Jerusalem had become frightened at him. Sometime before the passover of that year Jesus Christ performed one of his most remarkable miracles—raising from the dead a man who had been dead and buried for four days. Because of this there was much popular excitement, and the religious leaders said among themselves: “What are we to do, because this man performs many signs? If we let him alone this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:1-48) But now on Nisan 9, or five days before the passover, Jesus rode as if in a coronation ceremony into Jerusalem while the jubilant crowds shouted: “Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name, even the king of Israel!” Because of such surprising popular support for Jesus as the Messianic King of Israel, the religious Pharisees became still more disturbed and said among themselves: “You observe you are getting absolutely nowhere. See! The world has gone after him”!—John 12:10-19.
21, 22. (a) How did the religious leaders implicate the Roman government in the trial and execution of Jesus? (b) How did Herod Antipas handle the matter of Jesus when it was referred to him?
21 So the religious leaders tried to get somewhere by having Jesus the Messiah killed on the following Passover day, Nisan 14. The charge for having him executed to death they took out of the realm of religion and Put it into the realm of politics. They thus implicated political representatives of the imperial Roman government over Palestine. Condemning him first themselves on religious grounds, they brought him before the Roman governor of the province of Judea. On what charge? On that of political sedition. When questioning the accused Jesus, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate said to him: “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered you up to me. What did you do?” (John 18:12-35) During the trial Pontius Pilate learned that Jesus was from the province of Galilee, which was then under jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, the murderer of John the Baptist. Seeking for a way out, Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, then at Jerusalem.
22 Thinking that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead, Herod Antipas was interested in seeing Jesus. He hoped to be entertained by a miracle or two on Jesus’ part. Jesus refused to comply and say or do anything in self-defense. Let the priests and scribes accuse him all they wanted to. So Herod took it as a joke. The Bible record says: “Then Herod together with his soldier guards discredited him, and he made fun of him by clothing him with a bright garment and sent him back to Pilate. Both Herod and Pilate now became friends with each other on that very day; for before that they had continued at enmity between themselves.”—Luke 23:1-12.
23. How did Jesus then come in for ridicule from the soldiers of Rome?
23 Afterward, when Pontius Pilate gave in to religious pressure and turned over Jesus to his Roman soldiers to be killed on an execution stake, the Messiah or Christ of Jehovah God came in for more ridicule and fun-making. “Then,” as Matthew 27:27-31 tells us, “the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s palace and gathered the whole body of troops together to him. And disrobing him, they draped him with a scarlet cloak, and they braided a crown out of thorns and put it on his head and a reed in his right hand. And, kneeling before him, they made fun of him, saying: ‘Good day, you King of the Jews!’ And they spit upon him and took the reed and began hitting him upon his head. Finally, when they had made fun of him, they took the cloak off and put his outer garments upon him and led him off for impaling.”
24. How did the religious leaders make fun of the impaled Jesus?
24 While Jesus was hanging on the stake, passersby kept speaking abusively of him and wagging their heads at him and taunting him. “In like manner also the chief priests with the scribes and older men began making fun of him and saying: ‘Others he saved; himself he cannot save! He is King of Israel; let him now come down off the torture stake and we will believe on him. He has put his trust in God; let Him now rescue him if He wants him, for he said, “I am God’s Son.”’”—Matt. 27:39-43.
25. By taking what precautions respecting the entombed Jesus could the religious leaders now laugh in glee?
25 Thus Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, died as a laughingstock. The next day after his death and his burial in a nearby tomb, the chief priests and Pharisees showed their contempt and also their purpose to prevent any possible disappearance of Jesus’ body from the tomb, by saying to Pontius Pilate: “Sir, we have called to mind that that impostor said while yet alive, ‘After three days I am to be raised up.’ Therefore command the grave to be made secure until the third day, that his disciples may never come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He was raised up from the dead!’ and this last imposture will be worse than the first.” Again the Roman governor played into their hands and commanded them to seal the tomb and station a guard there. (Matt. 27:62-66) How the religious leaders could now laugh in glee!
[Picture on page 236]
Rulers are not supermen any more than was Nebuchadnezzar; after living like a beast he learned that “the heavens are ruling”