“Ministers of Our God” and Their Assistants Today
1. What is the greatest public service that is being rendered to mankind today, and those sharing in it are called what prophetically?
GOD’S WORK of spiritual restoration and rehabilitation is the greatest public service that is being rendered to mankind today. Those whom he is using as his public servants in this work are not politicians, but those who are prophetically designated as “the ministers of our God.” (Isa. 61:6) Their Leader and Exemplar was the foremost Public Servant of Jehovah God. This one was Jesus Christ, who, in his days on earth 19 centuries ago, performed an astounding work of rehabilitation on poor mankind.
2. Why did Jesus and his apostles not engage in an environmental rehabilitation of the land of Palestine?
2 Back there the public ministry of Jesus Christ and his apostles did not bring about the environmental restoration of the land of Palestine in which they preached the good news of God’s kingdom. To work for such a thing would have been in vain, for the anointed Jesus taught his apostles that “the day of vengeance on the part of our God” was to come upon the Jews, which did come in 70-73 C.E. by means of the Roman legions, and reduce the province of Judea to a devastated condition. The fortress of Masada by the Dead Sea was the last Judean stronghold to fall to the Romans. But what about the spiritual rehabilitation work pioneered by Jesus and carried forward by his apostles? It continued advancing onward through all that trialsome period and beyond, until the foretold “apostasy,” or rebellion, set in after the death of the apostles.—2 Thess. 2:3.
3. According to Isaiah 61:1-4, who are the symbolic “big trees of righteousness,” and in what activity are they set to work?
3 In the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 61, the work of spiritual rehabilitation was likened to the rehabilitating of a long-desolated land and its devastated cities. So, after first telling how the Sovereign Lord Jehovah would be “beautified” by his producing “big trees of righteousness” in a spiritual paradise, Isaiah’s prophecy goes on to say: “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) The rebuilders here spoken of are those referred to in the preceding three Isa 61 verses 1-3 who receive comfort and who are given religious liberty and restored to the favor and “goodwill” of Jehovah. These are set to restoration work.
4. Did Jesus apply the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:4 to the province of Judea after the Babylonian captivity, and for how long does the prophecy’s fulfillment extend itself?
4 The province of Judea and Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ and his apostles did much preaching of God’s kingdom, had long before been rehabilitated by the remnant of faithful Jews after their release from Babylonian captivity and their return to their homeland in 537 B.C.E. But did the anointed Jesus apply the prophecy of Isaiah 61:4 to that past accomplishment on the literal land of Judah? No! When he quoted the first two verses of Isaiah, chapter Isa 61:1, 2, in the synagogue of Nazareth, he pointed to the fulfillment of that chapter as beginning with him, in his day. He showed that it had a spiritual significance and did not apply to a restoration of the natural, physical, environmental conditions of the people. So the fulfillment of the prophecy extends down to our 20th century, to our day.
5. Why was there need of spiritual restoration work with regard to Jehovah’s people after World War I, and when did it get under way?
5 World War I of 1914-1918 had a devastating effect on the anointed remnant of Jehovah’s dedicated, baptized servants. Their earthly organization was crippled in many ways. When that first total war ended, a number of anointed Christians who had been foremost in the service and worship of Jehovah God found themselves still in prison under long sentences of confinement. But in 1919 came release, not only from literal imprisonment, but, more importantly, from Babylon the Great (including apostate Christendom). Restoration work of a spiritual kind got under way without delay.
6. Of what fact did the 1919 Cedar Point convention notify the world, and what did Jehovah then establish for his anointed remnant?
6 In 1919 the first convention of the International Bible Students Association at Cedar Point, Ohio, proved meaningful. It notified the world that the true Christian remnant anointed with the spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah was again alive, as if from the dead. They had been restored to his favor and were once more openly active in ‘preaching this good news of the Kingdom for a witness to all the nations’ as foretold in Matthew 24:14. The effect of that pioneering effort at spiritual rehabilitation shows up on a worldwide scale even at this late date. To his own praise, Jehovah God has established a spiritual paradise for his spirit-anointed remnant.
WHO DESIGNATES THE “MINISTERS OF OUR GOD”?
7. According to Isaiah 61:5-7, how much attention was the spiritual rehabilitation of the anointed remnant to excite?
7 Strange as it may sound, the spiritual rehabilitation of Jehovah’s anointed remnant was due to excite international attention. Isaiah’s prophecy foretold this. After having considered Isaiah 61:4, we read on: “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, and in their glory [riches] you will speak elatedly about yourselves. Instead of your shame there will be a double portion, and instead of humiliation they will cry out joyfully over their share [their lot]. Therefore in their land they will take possession of even a double portion. Rejoicing to time indefinite is what will come to be theirs.”—Isa. 61:5-7, NW; RS.
8. When and how did the adverse things prophesied come, and at whose instigation?
8 Let us not fail to note this: Those upon whom this encouraging prophecy is fulfilled must first suffer shame and humiliation, the denial to them of their “portion” and “share.” During World War I such disagreeable, unjustified things did befall Jehovah’s anointed remnant, even at the hand of war-mad Christendom. Yes, down to this day the clergy of Christendom persist in heaping shame and humiliation on the anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites.
9. In what location were the anointed remnant no longer to suffer shame, humiliation and lack of provisions, and how did they get there?
9 However, those spiritual Israelites are no longer in the land of Babylon the Great, suffering captivity, imprisonment and religious slavery there. In the spring of 1919, when the Babylonish clergy of Christendom no longer had martialed nations to use as henchmen, Jehovah liberated his faithful anointed remnant. He restored them to what Isaiah’s prophecy calls “their land.” In that God-given estate was where they were no more to suffer shame, humiliation and lack of spiritual provisions. Theirs was to be a spiritual paradise, in which they would have a “double portion.”
10. As to how did the restored anointed remnant are designated by religious opposers and by Jehovah, what is it that counts with the remnant?
10 Of course, the clergy of apostate Christendom and her worldly paramours still have their way of designating the restored remnant as an existing religious body. But what did Isaiah’s prophecy say the restored anointed remnant would be called? Isaiah 61:6 is addressed to the restored remnant and says: “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.” What Jehovah designates his anointed remnant to be is what counts with them, not what religious opposers call them.
11. In ancient Israel, who were included in the priesthood, but to whom is the prophecy of Isaiah 61:6 about priests addressed?
11 In the nation of the prophet Isaiah and of Jesus Christ, the prophecy of Isaiah 61:6 could never be fulfilled. Why not? Because the qualified male members of only the family of Aaron, the brother of Moses, were anointed as priests. The rest of the tribe of Levi served as assistants to the Aaronic priests at the temple. The 12 other tribes of Israel brought their sacrifices and offerings to the Aaronic priests and were aided also by the temple Levites. Did those 12 tribes feel that they had been discriminated against because they were barred from the priesthood and Levitical services? No! They submitted themselves to those designated by the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. So, under the Mosaic law, Israel could never become a a priest nation, a nation made up entirely of priests. However, in the case of Christ’s anointed disciples, to the entire Christian Israel made up by them it is said: “The priests of Jehovah you will be called.”
12. In spiritual Israel, how many are priests, and who is the High Priest?
12 All the members of this spiritual Israel are “priests” by Jehovah’s designation of them. Jesus Christ their Pioneer is Jehovah’s High Priest, under whom the nation of “priests” serve God.
13. How did the apostles Peter and John confirm that this arrangement of Jehovah applied to the anointed disciples of the High Priest Jesus Christ?
13 The prophet Isaiah was inspired to foretell this fact. Later, the inspired apostles of Jesus Christ confirmed that this arrangement of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah applied to the anointed disciples of the heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ. To such disciples, the apostle Peter writes: “You yourselves also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9) Furthermore, the apostle John wrote to those loved by Jesus Christ: “To him that loves us and that loosed us from our sins by means of his own blood—and he made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—yes, to him be the glory and the might forever.”—Rev. 1:5, 6.
14. How is this fact reiterated in Revelation 5:9, 10?
14 John further records the acclamation in heaven that was given to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, and that involves the priesthood, in these words: “With your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God.”—Rev. 5:9, 10.
15. What does the 1977 edition of The Encyclopedia Americana say about “Priesthood of all believers” as taught by reformers?
15 During the Middle Ages the Protestant Reformers applied these words to their religious congregations. On page 681 of Volume 22 the 1977 copyrighted edition of The Encyclopedia Americana, under the subheading “Priesthood of All Believers,” says:
“A central doctrine of the Reformation was the priesthood of all believers. Believing that salvation is by God’s free grace, accepted in faith, the Reformers argued that no professional clergy is necessary to mediate salvation through preaching and the sacraments. Any believer can act like a priest, telling the good news of salvation, and the hearer can respond in faith. Furthermore, inasmuch as good works are serving one’s neighbor, any work that benefits society is seen as a Christian vocation. What is known as the ‘Protestant work ethic’ grew out of seeing daily work as the prime area in which to serve God.”
16. In his book addressed to “the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,” what did Martin Luther say about the universal priesthood?
16 In the 1927, 1929 copyrighted Volume 17 of The Encyclopedia Americana, at the top of page 753, under “Luther,” we read:
“Two notable books now appeared from Luther’s pen defining his attitude: ‘To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,’ and the ‘Babylonian Captivity.’ In the former he proclaims the universal priesthood and declares against any especially instituted priestly order. He also contests the right of the Pope to interpret the Bible, which he declares to be free to everybody.”
For instance, Martin Luther wrote in his book ‘to the Nobility’: “We were all consecrated to be priests at our baptism. . . . That the Pope or the bishop anoints, tonsures, ordains, consecrates and dresses a person differently from the laity may well make a hypocrite or a fool out of him, but it will never make him a Christian or a spiritual man.”
17. Why did the first-century Christians not assume the title of priest, and what about Jesus Christ himself when on earth?
17 Like the primitive Christians of apostolic times, the members of the anointed remnant today do not assume the title of priest. Why should they do so? Are they not all fellow members of the one spiritual priesthood and so not to be distinguished from one another? Yes! The high priesthood of Jesus Christ is the predominant thing to which the inspired Christian Greek Scriptures point for the consideration of the spirit-anointed congregation. (Heb. 3:1-6) Even Jesus Christ himself, when on earth, did not speak of himself as a priest, even though he was then serving as the antitype of Israel’s first high priest, Aaron the brother of Moses.
18. (a) Do men ordain priests, the same as men appoint elders, overseers and ministerial servants? (b) Where, in Jehovah’s spiritual temple, are the anointed remnant today, and what are they doing there?
18 True, the apostles such as Paul and Barnabas did appoint qualified men to be elders or overseers and ministerial servants in the Christian congregations, but they never appointed or ordained “priests.” (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1) Jehovah is the One who, by Jesus Christ, appoints or ordains his priests. Despite their not assuming titles, the anointed remnant of today are in what was foreshadowed by the “courtyard of the priests” in the temple at Jerusalem. In such a figurative courtyard in the spiritual temple of Jehovah, they offer “spiritual sacrifices” to him through Jesus Christ the High Priest.—1 Pet. 2:5.
19. (a) In Isaiah 61:6, what else are the members of spiritual Israel said to be? (b) Does the Hebrew word there used mean more than acting as a mere “servant”?
19 Returning now to Isaiah 61:6, we note that it also says to the anointed members of spiritual Israel: “The ministers of our God you will be said to be.” Here in the Hebrew text the word translated “ministers” is m’sharethʹ (in the plural number), not ‘obed, meaning “servant,” as in Isaiah 65:13. The Hebrew word m’sharethʹ and other forms of the verb sharathʹ are often used in connection with the priests of Israel. Joel 2:17 uses the expression “the priests, the ministers of Jehovah.” (Ex. 28:35, 43) In the first translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into a foreign language the Greek-speaking translators recognized the difference between the two Hebrew words ‘obed and m’sharethʹ, and so in their rendering of Isaiah 61:6 in the Greek Septuagint Version they used the Greek word leitourgosʹ for m’sharethʹ.
20. (a) What is the basic meaning of the Greek work leitourgosʹ? (b) How is it used in the Christian Greek Scriptures with reference to human creatures and to heavenly creatures?
20 The word leitourgosʹ means, basically, “a public worker,” that is, a public officer or minister, such as a magistrate. (Rom. 13:6) It may refer to one serving in sacred office, as when the apostle Paul speaks of himself as “a public servant of Christ Jesus to the nations, engaging in the holy work of the good news of God.” (Rom. 15:16) Jesus Christ, as God’s High Priest, is called a “public servant of the holy place and of the true tent.” (Heb. 8:1, 2) In the case of a public figure like King David’s princely son Amnon, the man waiting upon him would be viewed as a public servant. (2 Sam. 13:18) Heavenly angels are viewed as public servants, for, when the apostle Paul quotes Psalm 104:4, he says: “Also, with reference to the angels he [God] says: ‘And he makes his angels spirits, and his public servants a flame of fire.’” (Heb. 1:7) Also, in Hebrews 1:14, Paul speaks of the angels as “all spirits for public service.”
21. In Psalm 103:21, what are God’s military forces in heaven called?
21 Psalm 103:21 is addressed to Jehovah’s heavenly “armies,” and there they are called “ministers of his.” All considered, the word “ministers” as occurring in Isaiah 61:6 refers to more than one’s acting as a servant or rendering sacred service.
22. (a) Jesus Christ rendered to God a public service superior to that of whom? (b) In Philippians 2:17, Paul spoke of the Christian activity there as what?
22 Hebrews 10:11 speaks of each and every priest of ancient Israel as taking his stand daily “to render public service and to offer the same sacrifices often.” (See also Luke 1:23.) Of God’s Son, who is superior to angels, Hebrews 8:6 says: “Now Jesus has obtained a more excellent public service, so that he is also the mediator of a correspondingly better covenant.” In the congregation at Antioch, Syria, certain Christian prophets and teachers, including Paul and Barnabas, were said to be “publicly ministering to Jehovah.” (Acts 13:1, 2) Paul, who founded the congregation at Philippi, Macedonia, speaks of their special ministry and says: “I am being poured out like a drink offering upon the sacrifice and public service to which faith has led you.” (Phil. 2:17) So all those anointed Christians acted as God’s public servants.—Isa. 61:6.
23. How did the Watch Tower in its issue of June 1882 call attention to the public service performed by members of the spiritual body of Christ?
23 Likewise the anointed remnant of spiritual Israelites today render to God “public service” as the “faithful and discreet slave” class. (Matt. 24:45-47) The existence of such a class of public servants of God was early called attention to by Zion’s Watch Tower in its monthly issue of June 1882, page 7, paragraph 5, under the subject title “Human Teachers Necessary.” There the publishers said: “ . . . And while we believe that every consecrated member of the body of Christ is a MINISTER in some sense, and all are ‘anointed to preach the glad tidings’, yet there are various members adapted to different parts of the work, just as there are different members and offices in the human body, which Scripturally is used to illustrate the body of Christ—the Church.” So all the anointed remnant of the spiritual body of Christ are properly viewed and spoken of as “ministers of our God.”—Isa. 61:6.
NOTICE TAKEN OF THEM INTERNATIONALLY
24, 25. How may the “ministers of our God” be robbed and treated unrighteously, but who promises to correct matters at the due time?
24 “Ministers of our God” should carry out their responsibilities and conduct themselves in a way that honors their standing before God. People in general may misunderstand them and may look upon them as unrighteous and in the wrong. They may be robbed of their good reputation or be denied proper recognition and a deserved consideration. (2 Cor. 6:8-10) But the Supreme Judge of all will correct matters just when it suits his purpose to do so. He believes in justice. In Isaiah 61:8, 9 he says to those mistreated:
25 “For I, Jehovah, am loving justice, hating robbery along with unrighteousness. And I will give their wages in trueness, and an indefinitely lasting covenant I shall conclude toward them. And their offspring will actually be known even among the nations, and their descendants in among the peoples. All those seeing them will recognize them, that they are the offspring whom Jehovah has blessed.”
26. How did the remnant of spiritual Israel become known among nations and peoples, and how did these come to recognize the “offspring whom Jehovah has blessed”?
26 To become “known” the anointed remnant of spiritual Israel had to get out among nations and peoples. During World War I, yes, also during World War II, they had been subjected to international “robbery.” Because of being falsely accused and misrepresented by religious foes and their patrons, they underwent great persecution. They were deprived of “wages” that they really deserved for their efforts and activities in Jehovah’s public service. But by making them his witnesses and preachers of the Kingdom good news, Jehovah showed whom he himself approved. (Matt. 24:14; Isa. 43:10, 12) By his holy spirit he energized them to bear testimony to all the world. In such a way the nations and peoples got to know the “offspring whom Jehovah has blessed.”—Isa. 61:9.
27. Who among the peoples and nations did give due recognition to the remnant’s standing, and where and with whom did they want to live and serve God?
27 Peoples and nations as such did not give Jehovah’s anointed remnant the due recognition. But individuals did so. Lovers of justice, righteousness and truth manifested themselves. Notably from the spring of 1935 these went lining themselves up with the anointed remnant because they were “the ministers of our God.” Since then these who are not spiritual Israelites, “the offspring whom Jehovah has blessed,” have become a “great crowd.” At the Washington, D.C., convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1935 it was disclosed that this unnumbered “crowd” of those who were not spiritual Israelites matched the prophetic picture of Revelation 7:9-17. Because of not being spiritual Israelites, they were “strangers” and “foreigners” to the anointed remnant. (Isa. 61:5) They saw that the remnant lived in a spiritual paradise, marked by “big trees of righteousness” and having citylike congregations. They too wanted to be in a spiritual paradise of that kind, there to serve God.—See You May Survive Armageddon into God’s New World, pp. 296-299, pars. 14-16; p. 368, No. 30.
28. By what course of the “great crowd” do the anointed remnant see fulfilled to them the words of Isaiah 61:5?
28 Fully counting the cost of their decision and course of action, they forsook the polluted, decaying world organization. They lined up with Jehovah’s visible organization. Of course, they could not serve him as spiritual Israelites, but they really desired to help the anointed remnant in heralding the good news of Jehovah’s kingdom by Christ. So they got baptized as dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. They took up active service with the spiritual Israelites. Consequently, with delight the anointed remnant see fulfilled to them the words of Isaiah 61:5: “And strangers will actually stand and shepherd the flocks of you people, and the foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.”
29. Humble in mind, the “great crowd” are glad to do what in behalf of “the ministers of our God,” and with what effect?
29 Humbly the “great crowd” consider it an honor and a privilege to serve in the spiritual paradise with those whom Isaiah 61:6 designates as “the priests of Jehovah” and “the ministers of our God.” They appreciate that the anointed Christians thus designated by Jehovah God must specialize on spiritual matters in his spiritual temple. So they are glad to relieve the anointed remnant by helping and cooperating in order that these may specialize on the more important spiritual matters. All of this aids in beautifying the spiritual paradise and making it fruitful to God’s glory.
30 Thus the figurative “strangers” and “foreigners” of today assist those of the remnant that they may carry out the duties devolving upon them because of being anointed with Jehovah’s spirit. In Isaiah 61:5 the work of the assistants is pictured as tending to flocks, farming or plowing, and caring for vineyards. But in the Revelation vision of the foreigners out of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues, it is said of them: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.”—Rev. 7:14, 15.
31. Regardless of how the world views them, what are those of the “great crowd” to the enthroned God?
31 Those of the “great crowd” are thus pictured as performers of sacred service to the enthroned Sovereign Lord of the universe. Regardless of how the world views them, they are His servants!
32. How will Isaiah 61:5, 6 be fulfilled more literally with respect to the remnant and the “great crowd” during the millennium?
32 That “great crowd” of “strangers” and “foreigners” will survive the coming “great tribulation.” How beautifully Isaiah 61:5 describes what they will do afterward, during the thousand-year reign of Christ! During that time the “priests of Jehovah” who are “the ministers of our God” will be exalted with the High Priest Jesus Christ in the heavens. Up there they will more than ever occupy themselves with priestly service for all mankind. (Rev. 20:6) But the “great crowd” will be left here on the cleansed earth that is to be transformed into a literal paradise globally. Who then will be the pioneers in rehabilitating and beautifying God’s earthly footstool? Why, the “great crowd” of tribulation survivors who have stuck to the spiritual paradise with the anointed remnant.
33. How will the “great crowd” attend to human needs and appetites then, and for whom will they be pioneers in Jehovah’s service and worship?
33 Will there then be clothing to make? The wool from the flocks that the “great crowd” will tend will be ample for this purpose. Is bread desired, and other products from the field? The “farmers” will see to satisfying hearty appetites. The vinedressers will be able to furnish the best of wines to gladden the hearts of men. The progress that the “great crowd” will have made in restoring paradise on earth will delight the eyes of all those resurrected from the dead and will demonstrate the advance care taken for all such redeemed by the High Priest. Despite all of this, the “great crowd” will not neglect rendering sacred service to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ regularly in the earthly courtyard of God’s spiritual temple. In this they will take the lead and set an excellent example for all those resurrected from the dead.—Luke 23:43.
[Picture on page 25]
The modern-day “ministers of our God” are doing a spiritual rehabilitation work that was foretold by the prophet Isaiah and pioneered by Jesus. The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has empowered them to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom to the meek ones of all the earth.