United in Worship Under Our Shepherd-King
“This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: ‘Here I am taking the sons of Israel . . . , and one king is what all of them will come to have as king.’”—EZEKIEL 37:21, 22.
1, 2. (a) What do the two sticks of Ezekiel 37:16 represent? (b) What happened to these two “sticks”?
KINGDOM unity, we say. And this is right in line with the latter part of chapter 37 of Ezekiel’s prophecy. There, in Eze 37 verse 16, Jehovah tells Ezekiel to take two sticks. On one he is to write, “For Judah and for the sons of Israel his partners.” On the other he must write, “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and all the house of Israel his partners.” What do these sticks represent?
2 They stand for the two parts of the kingdom of Israel, which became divided into Judah to the south and Ephraim to the north. Each in its turn went into captivity—the northern kingdom in 740 B.C.E. and the southern kingdom in 607 B.C.E. But in 537 B.C.E. a remnant from all 12 tribes of Israel returned to Jerusalem, there to reestablish the united worship of Jehovah. How is this shown in Ezekiel’s prophecy?
3. As illustrated by Ezekiel 37:19, what must prevail among God’s restored people?
3 Listen to Jehovah’s words to Ezekiel, at Eze 37 verse 19:
“Speak to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “Here I am taking the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his partners, and I will put them upon it, that is, the stick of Judah, and I shall actually make them one stick, and they must become one in my hand.”’”
Ah, unity must prevail among Jehovah’s restored people!
United in Worship
4. How was Ezekiel 37:21 fulfilled (a) in 537 B.C.E.? (b) in modern times?
4 No longer would God’s people be divided into two nations, with loyalties divided between kingdoms to the north and the south, but they would actually be “one nation in the land.” Ezekiel speaks words of comfort to them, as commanded by Jehovah:
“And speak to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: “Here I am taking the sons of Israel from among the nations to which they have gone, and I will collect them together from round about and bring them onto their soil . . . and one King is what all of them will come to have as king.”’” (Ezekiel 37:21, 22)
Just as these words were fulfilled toward the unified remnant of Israel as they returned from captivity in 537 B.C.E., so the restored remnant of anointed Witnesses of modern times have experienced the joy of being united in their paradisaic land of spiritual prosperity.—See also Ezekiel 36:33-36.
5. How have God’s people been cleansed from defilement?
5 At the same time, God’s people have been cleansed from all spiritual defilement caused by Satan’s world empire of false religion, “Babylon the Great.” (Revelation 17:5; 18:2, 4) Their liberation from false religious doctrines and practices is the modern-day major fulfillment of the prophecy that applied in a miniature way to Israel of old at its restoration from captivity in the literal Babylon:
“And they will no longer defile themselves with their dungy idols and with their disgusting things and with all their transgressions; and I shall certainly save them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and I will cleanse them, and they must become my people, and I myself shall become their God.”—Ezekiel 37:23.
6. (a) Why does spiritual Israel now enjoy intimacy with its God? (b) What unity must we observe, even if someone deviates from the truth?
6 The disgusting idolatry of the religions of Christendom and pagandom has been set aside by Jehovah’s restored people. No longer do they idolize creatures or follow the customs of worldly religion, such as observing God-dishonoring “holidays.” Their worship is not distributed to three gods in one, the so-called godhead of some mysterious Trinity, but they are united as the one people who worship the one God, Jehovah. In unison they praise the Sovereign Lord of the universe, and this binds them together in a unity unknown to any other people on earth! (Isaiah 52:8) Even if a former associate develops a wicked conscience, deviating from the body of truth provided by Jehovah, we stand united with God’s organization in its work and in precious intimacy with our God.—Proverbs 3:32; Hebrews 10:22, 23.
Recognizing the King
7. In addition to true worship, what other unifying force is promised for God’s people?
7 When ancient Israel was restored to its “land,” true worship became a unifying force among them. But the kingdom was not restored. Why, then, does Jehovah at Ezekiel chapter 37, verses 22 and 24, speak of a “king” over them? Eze 37 Verses 24 and 25 read:
“And my servant David will be king over them, and one shepherd is what they will all come to have; and in my judicial decisions they will walk, and my statutes they will keep, and they will certainly carry them out. And they will actually dwell upon the land that I gave to my servant, to Jacob, in which your forefathers dwelt, and they will actually dwell upon it, they and their sons and their sons’ sons to time indefinite, and David my servant will be their chieftain to time indefinite.”
8. (a) Why must these verses apply to spiritual Israel? (b) How do we pinpoint the time of fulfillment?
8 That part of the prophecy has never been fulfilled on fleshly Israel, nor will it ever be so fulfilled. Therefore the application must be to spiritual Israel. But when? Well, when has a king with “legal right” come to sit again on the throne of David? This happened with the ending of “the appointed times of the nations” in the modern year 1914. As the Gentile Times ran out, “the kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord” Jehovah, who “will rule as king forever and ever,” and also “of his Christ,” the One whom David typified.—Ezekiel 21:26, 27; Luke 21:24; Revelation 11:15.
9. What two things serve as unifying realities today?
9 So, today, not only are we Jehovah’s Witnesses unified by true worship—important as such worship is—but we are also unified in being gathered under our “Chieftain” King! Both our worship and the Kingdom are realities to us. And both serve to unite us in our worldwide brotherhood.
10. (a) How do we regard our Shepherd-King? (b) How do we carry out Jehovah’s “judicial decisions”?
10 How we love our King! To all of us he is “one shepherd”—a kindly Shepherd who leads us to waters of everlasting life. He knows each of us by name and is interested in calling us out and leading us to luscious spiritual pastures. But like the sheep of a flock, we must stay united, ‘walking in Jehovah’s judicial decisions.’ We must keep separate from the following three segments of Satan’s organization: its corrupt politics, its greedy commercialism and its idolatrous religion. In a unity like that of Jesus and his early disciples, we show that we are “no part of the world.” And this includes, too, shunning the world’s immorality. (John 17:14, 16, 20, 21; 18:36) There must be no divisions among us, as we keep Jehovah’s statutes and “certainly carry them out.”
11. How does our way of life contrast with that of worldly religionists?
11 How different is this way of life from that of worldly religionists! With them, usually, anything goes. They allow the permissive society with its moral filth. They often have differing standards for different parts of the world. For example, in affluent countries, they hold more or less to the arrangement of one husband—one wife; in another hemisphere they admit to membership those accustomed to having, and who still have, a great many wives. (Compare Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Timothy 3:2, 12.) But we who are united under Christ, the Shepherd-King, follow Bible statutes and principles in every part of the world. And when nations go to war, we refuse to kill our brothers of another nation, for in the words of Isaiah it is said of us: “Neither will they learn war anymore.”—Isaiah 2:3, 4.
12. How do we show ourselves to be at unity, “like a flock in the pen”?
12 This unity of the remnant of spiritual Israelites is beautifully foretold, too, by the scripture at Micah 2:12, where Jehovah says: “In unity I shall set them, like a flock in the pen, like a drove in the midst of its pasture; they will be noisy with men.” This is something that we observe at assemblies of Jehovah’s people: Thousands listening attentively, quietly, eager to pick up every word as we pasture under the shepherding of Jehovah and his Shepherd-King. Orientals, blacks, whites—the anointed remnant and the “other sheep”—all are at unity in this drove. Our conventions, our assemblies, our congregation meetings, provide irrefutable testimony that Kingdom unity is a global reality today!
13. How has the flock become “noisy with men”?
13 However, what of Micah’s words, “They will be noisy with men”? What do we experience before and after our meetings and assemblies? Why, the noise of happy association, as in pleasant conversations we share the joy of our Christian association and speak of our service to our God. And the worldwide congregation becomes “noisy,” also, from the point-of-view that it is constantly increasing; as new congregations continue to be formed, the harmonious song of praise to Jehovah intensifies in volume throughout the earth.—Psalm 96:1-3.
14. Illustrate how the world takes note of our unity.
14 This happy unity, like that of a flock in a pen, does not go unnoticed by the world. For example, at the time of the 1983 “Kingdom Unity” District Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the police in Taegu, Korea, sent 30 officers to the assembly hall on the first day, but on seeing the good order and how the Witnesses were controlling the traffic outside, they sent only two officers the three remaining days. At Taejŏn, the hall manager remarked: “It appears that you people have been inspired from heaven—this is wonderful.” An overstatement, but he made his point! In Rangoon, Burma, one of the Gandhi Hall committee commented: “If only the whole world had a society like yours, there would be no problems in the world.”
Jehovah’s “Covenant of Peace”
15. What desirable peace is described at Ezekiel 37:26?
15 True peace belongs to those whom our Shepherd-King, Christ Jesus, leads to pasture. It is a peace that comes with unity, and that unity is indeed a Kingdom reality among Jehovah’s Witnesses in all the earth today. Wonderfully does Jehovah describe this in his words to Ezekiel at Eze chapter 37, verse 26:
“And I will conclude with them a covenant of peace; an indefinitely lasting covenant is what there will come to be with them. And I will place them and multiply them and place my sanctuary in the midst of them to time indefinite”!
Peace with God! Peace that can be everlasting, thanks to the loving sacrifice that our Shepherd-King made while he was here on earth!
16. What has led to the multiplying of the “sheep”?
16 Now that spiritual Israel has been multiplied to the full number of 144,000, a great crowd of “other sheep” join these in sacred service at Jehovah’s sanctuary. There is no end to multiplying the “sheep”—already they number into the millions! In unity around the world, these Kingdom proclaimers go from house to house. This public worship is real and purposeful to us, identifying us as the one people in all the earth that is interested in magnifying Jehovah’s name and in proclaiming his Kingdom of peace. How glad we are to share in his covenant of peace!
17. (a) What encouragement does Jehovah give at Ezekiel 37:27, 28? (b) How do we know that Jehovah’s watch-care is not limited to spiritual Israel?
17 At Ezekiel 37, verses 27 and 28, we read Jehovah’s concluding words of encouragement to his united flock:
“And my tabernacle will actually prove to be over them, and I shall certainly become their God, and they themselves will become my people. And the nations will have to know that I, Jehovah, am sanctifying Israel when my sanctuary comes to be in the midst of them to time indefinite.”
How glad we are that Jehovah’s protection is spread over his people like a tent! Nor is this loving watch-care limited to spiritual Israel, for we read concerning the “great crowd” that “the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them.” No longer does any heat of Jehovah’s displeasure strike them.—Revelation 7:9-17.
18. (a) How does Jehovah ‘sanctify Israel’? (b) How does the “great crowd” come also to have a righteous standing before God?
18 How glad we are, too, that Jehovah dwells in the midst of spiritual Israel, setting up his sanctuary in their midst “to time indefinite”! Just as this center of his worship is holy, so also those who come to worship there must be holy, sanctified, set aside for the service of their God. Anointed Christians are spoken of as “washed clean, . . . sanctified, . . . declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) And as the above-cited scripture at Revelation 7:9-17 shows, the “great crowd” with earthly hopes have also “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” that they may render God “sacred service day and night in his temple.” What a tremendous witness results from that unified global service!
19. (a) How will the nations be compelled to acknowledge the words of Ezekiel 38:23? (b) Till then, what must we be resolved to do?
19 However, our greatest joy, as we move forward in Kingdom unity, will be to arrive at the day of Jehovah’s vindication. Then his glorious name will be sanctified—cleared of all the vile reproach that has been heaped upon it. The nations will be compelled to witness the deliverance of Jehovah’s name people. But more important, as our Sovereign Lord himself declares: “They will have to know that I am Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 38:23) May we hold fast to our Kingdom unity, now a reality, until Jehovah’s glorious name is indeed sanctified in all the universe!
How has Ezekiel 37:15-28 been fulfilled with regard to:
□ Making Jehovah’s people “one stick”?
□ Setting up ‘one king and shepherd’?
□ God’s “covenant of peace” with his people?
□ God’s tabernacle “over them”?
[Picture on page 25]
Jehovah’s “covenant of peace” is with his united people now and assures prosperity on into the Paradise earth