“Ministers of Our God” Pioneer Vital Restoration Work
“And strangers will actually stand and shepherd the flocks of you people, and the foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. And as for you, the priests of Jehovah you will be called; the ministers of our God you will be said to be.”—Isa. 61:5, 6.
1. Ministers of State are today making strenuous efforts to do what, and in what frame of mind?
MINISTERS of State participated in the great reconstruction work that was made necessary by World War I. Much of what they shared in restoring was again destroyed by the far more disastrous war of 1939-1945. Reconstruction work became necessary once more, but on a far grander scale. Today public servants are making strenuous efforts to keep things from falling into a state of disrepair. The ministries of governments are in perplexity.
2, 3. (a) What more important restoration work of another kind has progressed despite World War II? (b) With what descriptive language was it foretold in Isaiah 61:4-6?
2 However, a more important restoration work of another kind began in the postwar year of 1919. In spite of the destructiveness of World War II, it continued on determinedly, yes, irrepressibly. It was restoration work of a spiritual kind, backed by a power such as the ministerial departments of human governments did not have. It is true that, according to what is written in Romans 13:4, the superior authorities of this world serve as God’s public ministers even for the good of Christians. But those who have pioneered the restoration work of the spiritual kind have been God’s public servants of a higher order. The work pioneered by such ministers was foretold by God’s inspired prophet Isaiah as follows:
3 “And they must rebuild the longstanding devastated places; they will raise up even the desolated places of former times, and they will certainly make anew the devastated cities, the places desolate for generation after generation. And strangers will actually stand and shepherd the flocks of you people, and the foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. And as for you, the priests of Jehovah you will be called; the ministers of our God you will be said to be. The resources of the nations you people will eat.”—Isa. 61:4-6.
4. At what time of change would Isaiah’s prophecy come true, and how and where did Jesus Christ indicate this?
4 The first-century restoration worker Jesus Christ showed when those words of Isaiah’s prophecy would begin to come true. The time for this would be when a centuries-old nation was breaking down and a new and better nation was to be brought into being. The new nation would be made up of the disciples of Jesus Christ, who were begotten by the spirit of God. It would be a spiritual Israel. But how did Jesus Christ indicate the time for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy quoted above? He did this when he quoted from the words that lead up to this prophecy and applied those words to himself. Jesus was then visiting the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth, sometime after the Passover of 30 C.E. He stood up to read. He unrolled the scroll of Isaiah’s prophecy to what is now sectioned off as chapter 61 and read at least part of what is Isa 61 verses one and two. Then he said to his audience: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.”—Luke 4:16-21.
5, 6. (a) The Greek-writing historian Luke worded Jesus’ quotation from Isaiah to read according to what translation? (b) In the original Hebrew text, how does Isaiah 61:1-3 read?
5 Luke, the historian who recorded this incident, made Jesus’ quotation from Isaiah’s prophecy read according to the way it is set out in the Greek translation known as the Septuagint Version. But how does the prophecy read in the original Hebrew text, which was doubtless what Jesus as a Palestinian Jew read? This way:
6 “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God; to comfort all the mourning ones; to assign to those mourning over Zion, to give them a headdress instead of ashes, the oil of exultation instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the downhearted spirit; and they must be called big trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, for him to be beautified.”—Isa. 61:1-3.
7. What words of restoration work then follow?
7 Then follow the words about restoration work: “And they must rebuild the long-standing devastated places; they will raise up even the desolated places of former times, and they will certainly make anew the devastated cities, the places desolate for generation after generation.”—Isa. 61:4.
8. At the time for the prophecy’s fulfillment, what kinds of persons would there be, emotionally, and why would the giving of attention to them be urgent?
8 Let us take note that at the time for Isaiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled there would be “meek ones,” “brokenhearted” ones, “those taken captive,” also “prisoners” and “those mourning over Zion.” These would urgently need proper attention. The time would be ripe for this, because it was the time period called “the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.” The arrival of the one anointed with the “spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah” would inaugurate that year of His goodwill. That symbolic “year” would be followed by “the day of vengeance on the part of our God.” This made the work of the spirit-anointed proclaimer of deliverance and liberty a very urgent one indeed.
9. What change did Jesus announce to his Nazarene audience, and how did they show themselves not “meek” enough to accept “good news”?
9 Jesus had changed his earthly occupation. Till he became 30 years old he had been a carpenter in Nazareth, Galilee. There the synagogue was in which Jesus read the significant words of Isaiah’s prophecy. This change of profession he announced to his Nazarene audience when he finished reading Isaiah 61:1, 2 and said: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.” Then he demonstrated this fact by giving a Bible talk that his fellow countrymen thought the former carpenter incapable of giving. They had heard that Jesus had become a physician. So they wanted him to ‘cure himself’ by performing cures in his “home territory” on his own townspeople. By means of Bible illustrations Jesus explained why he would not do so. At this they became highly displeased and tried to kill him. They forcibly proved themselves to be people not “meek” enough to accept “good news.”—Luke 4:21-30.
10. On what occasion had Jesus been anointed with holy spirit?
10 Despite such treatment at his hometown, Jesus went right ahead with carrying out the purpose of his being anointed with “the spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.” In the autumn of 29 C.E., he had left Nazareth and gone to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the son of Zechariah the priest. Immediately after Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters John the Baptizer saw the holy spirit descending upon him under manifestation of a dove. At the same time he heard Jehovah’s voice from heaven say: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:13-17; Luke 3:21, 22; John 1:29-34) That same spirit impelled Jesus to retire into the wilderness of Judea for 40 days.
11. Why did Jesus still have the spirit of anointing when he gave his talk in the synagogue at Nazareth?
11 After those 40 days of fasting and communing with his Father Jehovah, Satan the Devil set before him three temptations. If Jesus had succumbed to those temptations, he would have lost the spirit of anointing. But, by resisting the Tempter, he retained the spiritual anointing. So he still had it when he gave his talk in the synagogue of Nazareth.—Matt. 4:1-13; Luke 4:1-21.
12. In view of what took place in the land of the Jews since 537 B.C.E., what questions arise about the Jews at the time of Jesus’ anointing?
12 The anointing of Jesus with holy spirit in 29 C.E. occurred 565 years after Jesus’ people had been released from Babylonian captivity in 537 B.C.E. and had returned to their devastated homeland, the province of Judah. They had ‘made anew the devastated cities’ of the land, including Jerusalem, the temple of which they rebuilt. They had ‘raised up the desolated places’ of the former 70 years of their lying waste and had converted the land into somewhat of a paradise. At the three annual feasts of the Jews Zion, or Jerusalem, would teem with millions of worshipers. Why, then, when Jesus was anointed, should there be any brokenhearted Jews or Israelites? Why any “taken captive”? Why any “prisoners”? Why any “mourning over Zion”? Why any poor, humble, “meek” needing “good news”? Why any of such kind in 29 C.E.?
THOSE NEEDING “GOOD NEWS,” LIBERATION AND COMFORT
13. After the Jewish “prisoners” were released from Babylon and returned home, into which kind of bondage did they come?
13 It was because of the spiritual state into which the nation of Israel had come. True, Jehovah had executed a “day of vengeance” on the Babylonian Empire, whose rulers had refused to ‘open the way homeward to the prisoners.’ (Isa. 14:17; Jer. 50:15, 28; 51:6, 11, 36) When restored thereafter to their homeland those Jewish “prisoners” did not come into bondage to idolatry with literal graven images. Yet they came into a greater bondage, that to the religious system of Judaism. This was a system dominated by precepts and traditions of men, things that made invalid the Law and the commandments of Jehovah God. The official scribes and Pharisees became prominent in this religious system. They blinded the people to the truth by taking away “the key of knowledge,” hindering them from entering into the kingdom of God, and binding heavy loads on the common people that they themselves would not touch.—Luke 11:52.
14. In Jesus’ day, why was there reason for a remnant of the Jews to be “mourning over Zion”?
14 Moreover, those leaders in Judaism, like blind guides, led the blinded Jews in the way that ends up in the ditch of national destruction. They maneuvered Zion, or Jerusalem, into rejecting the real Messiah, Jesus, and having him put to death on a stake as if he were a false Christ. Those religious leaders kept Jerusalem on the path of being a killer of prophets and a stoner of those whom her God sent. (Matt. 23:1-37) So, did the “meek” ones of such a nation need to have “good news” told to them? Were those “taken captive” needing to have liberty proclaimed to them? Were there “prisoners” that needed to have a “wide opening of the eyes” by being brought out of the dungeon of religious darkness? Was Zion, or Jerusalem, as the center of Jehovah’s worship in such a religiously devastated state that there was real cause for mourning over her? Yes, indeed! And the anointed Jesus saw that there was then a remnant of such “mourning ones” among the Jews.
15. In what way did John the Baptizer serve as a pioneer, and how did Jesus become a pioneer of life and salvation?
15 Jesus met the needs of those mourners, those “taken captive,” those “prisoners,” those poor “meek” ones. He comforted those mourners by preaching the good news of “the kingdom of the heavens,” besides curing the sick and even raising the dead. (Matt. 4:17; 11:4-6) But still greater comfort and liberty were ahead for those mourners over Zion. This came by Jesus’ death and resurrection and his ascension into heaven to present the value of his sin-atoning sacrifice to God. By thus fulfilling the Bible prophecies concerning him, Jesus Christ became a pioneer of life and salvation for those who accepted his life-giving ministry. John the Baptizer had gone in advance of Jehovah’s Messiah and had prepared the way, and so John could also be called a pioneer. (Luke 1:76, New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, 1950) Jesus, however, did more than John in order to pioneer the way to life and salvation.
16. According to Moffatt’s translation of Acts 3:15, what did Peter at the temple in Jerusalem call Jesus?
16 It was just as the apostle Peter boldly told the Jews in the temple at Jerusalem some weeks after Jesus’ ascension to heaven: “You killed the pioneer of Life. But God raised him from the dead, as we [Peter and John] can bear witness.”—Acts 3:15, Moffatt.
17. According to Acts 5:31, what did the twelve apostles call Jesus before the Jerusalem Sanhedrin?
17 Later, before the bloodguilty Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, that was then composed of Sadducees, Pharisees and scribes, the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ testified: “God lifted him up to his right hand as our pioneer [Greek: arkhegós] and saviour, in order to grant repentance and remission of sins to Israel.”—Acts 5:31, Mo.
18, 19. What did the apostle Paul call Jesus at Hebrews 2:10 and 12:2?
18 In writing to the remnant of Hebrews (Jews) who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, or Christ, and who became spiritual sons of God, the Hebrew apostle Paul said: “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer [arkhegós] of their salvation perfect through suffering.”—Heb. 2:10, Revised Standard Version; also Moffatt.
19 Also: “Looking to Jesus the pioneer [arkhegós] and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Heb. 12:2, RS; Mo.
20. In what way did Jesus become “the pioneer . . . of our faith,” as well as its perfecter?
20 Jesus is thus declared to be a “pioneer” for his disciples, the pioneer of life, the pioneer of salvation, the pioneer of our faith. He brought to reality hundreds of Bible prophecies concerning the Messiah, or Christ. In this way he introduced a new and essential element into our faith toward Jehovah God. So he became the pioneer of the rounded-out faith that true Christians now have. Correctly, then, he is called “the pioneer . . . of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2, RS; Gal. 3:24, 25) At the same time our faith regarding Jehovah’s Messiah finds its perfecting or finale in Jesus Christ. The Jews who rejected Jesus Christ and who kept holding fast to Mosaic law alone had their faith left incomplete.
“BIG TREES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS”
21. As a result of Jesus’ appearing to his disciples and comforting them after his resurrection, they were to experience a spiritual growth to what extent?
21 To build up the faith of his disciples Jesus Christ appeared many times to them during the 40 days after his resurrection. He comforted those who were mourning over the hoped-for Messiah. What happened to those whom the resurrected Jesus Christ comforted? According to the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-3, the anointed Jesus was to “assign” to them “a headdress instead of ashes, the oil of exultation instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the downhearted spirit.” Because of this they would experience a spiritual growth so that they would be called “big trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, for him to be beautified.”
22. In Isaiah’s prophecy, how were the words “headdress,” “ashes,” “oil,” and “mantle” to be understood, and how did they fit the disciples from Pentecost forward?
22 Whether any of Jesus’ apostles or disciples had put ashes on their heads and had worn sackcloth we are not told. Evidently the prophetic expressions “headdress,” “ashes,” “oil,” and “mantle” were meant figuratively. Jesus’ resurrection appearances did indeed reverse the disciples’ feelings on the matter. Ah, yes, but on the day of Pentecost that followed, the Sovereign Lord Jehovah used his Son Jesus Christ to pour holy spirit upon the waiting disciples in Jerusalem. In manifestation of the outpoured spirit, miraculous flames of fire hovered above their heads. This manifestation was only temporary, and was not the permanent “headdress” foretold in Isaiah’s prophecy. Rather, their heads were crowned with the joy of divine approval, like the joy of a priest bridegroom on a wedding day. (Isa. 61:10) It was as if a soothing oil had been poured on their heads, refreshing them to the point of exultation. Gone was the downhearted spirit, and the praises of Jehovah God identified them as with a “mantle of praise.” Observers of that Pentecostal spectacle said: “We hear them speaking in our tongues about the magnificent things of God.”—Acts 2:1-11.
23. (a) What kind of work did Jesus pioneer for his disciples? (b) By their anointing through him, what were the disciples commissioned to do?
23 From all of this, what do we today observe? This fact, that, in keeping with his own anointing, Jesus Christ pioneered a restoration work toward those who became his disciples. Jehovah used him to pour out holy spirit on his baptized disciples, so that these recipients of holy spirit themselves became persons anointed with the spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. (2 Cor. 1:21; 1 John 2:20, 27) Now they also were commissioned to tell “good news” to the “meek” ones in the nation of Israel, to proclaim liberty to the captives and a release for the prisoners, and to comfort all those mourning over Zion. In this way they could help others whom they were used to comfort and liberate into exulting over “the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah” and into praising him for restoring them to his favor and service by means of his anointed ones.
24. From Pentecost onward, how was the spiritual estate of Jesus’ disciples adorned similar to how Paradise was adorned, and for whom to be beautified?
24 That outpouring of the spirit made all the difference in the world for those anointed with it. Instead of being like frail plants drooping for lack of nourishment, they became like “big trees of righteousness” that only Jehovah could plant and make grow up through Christ. Man’s original “Paradise of Pleasure” had been adorned by trees of various kinds. (Gen. 2:7-9) But from Pentecost onward Jehovah planted “big trees” in the spiritual estate of his dedicated people that their enemies had devastated and desolated. Such figurative “big trees” were the stalwart, steadfast, immovable Christians that reared themselves up loftily for the righteousness of Jehovah God. He, as their Planter, was “beautified” by their presence in the newly established Christian congregation.
25. Under what obligation did those baptized at Pentecost come, and in what work did they have to serve as pioneers?
25 On the day of Pentecost, besides the original congregation of about 120 disciples, thousands of others became anointed ones after their repentance, their acceptance of the Messiah and their baptism in water at the hands of the 12 apostles. (Acts 2:37-42) These also came under the obligations of the anointing with Jehovah’s spirit through Christ. Their Leader, Jesus, had pioneered the way for them to get the perfected faith and life and salvation. They became “ministers of our God.” (Isa. 61:6) As such, they must now pioneer the way for yet others who sought relationship with God to gain reconciliation with him through Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20) In this manner they would have a joyful part in God’s work of restoration.