The “Nation” That Fills Earth’s Surface With Fruit
“In the coming days Jacob will take root, Israel will put forth blossoms and actually sprout; and they will simply fill the surface of the productive land with produce.”—ISAIAH 27:6.
1. How did the apostle Peter refer to the nation of spiritual Israel?
CONCERNING the birth of the congregation of Christ’s disciples as a “nation” in 33 C.E., the apostle Peter wrote these words shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E.: “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. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people; you were those who had not been shown mercy, but are now those who have been shown mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9, 10) How gracious on God’s part that was!
2, 3. As the special possession of Jehovah God, what obligation devolves upon spiritual Israel, and to what are they likened by Jesus Christ in John chapter 15?
2 Today, 19 centuries after Peter wrote those words, there is still on earth a remnant of that spirit-begotten “nation.” They are reduced now to less than ten thousand in number, according to the reports of the annual celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal. They are ‘a people for Jehovah’s special possession,’ and as such they must declare abroad the excellencies of Jehovah God, who called them out of worldly “darkness into his wonderful light.” This “light” has been shining especially since the end of “the times of the Gentiles,” or “the appointed times of the nations,” in the year 1914.* (Luke 21:24, King James Version; NW) As the “special possession” of the Divine Giver of that wonderful light, they are prized by him. To him they are like a spiritual vineyard.
3 Here we recall what Jesus Christ said to his apostles, who represented all who would be his spirit-begotten followers: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator. Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Remain in union with me, and I in union with you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in the same way neither can you, unless you remain in union with me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He that remains in union with me, and I in union with him, this one bears much fruit; because apart from me you can do nothing at all.”—John 15:1-5.
4. (a) Jesus’ illustration reminds us of what description in Isaiah chapter 27? (b) When does this prophecy have its modern fulfillment, and upon whom? (c) What attitude does God no longer have toward his people?
4 That comparison, or parable, made by Jesus Christ reminds us of Jehovah’s words in Isaiah 27:2-4, where we read;
“In that day sing to her, you people: ‘A vineyard of foaming wine! I, Jehovah, am safeguarding her. Every moment I shall water her. In order that no one may turn his attention against her, I shall safeguard her even night and day. There is no rage that I have.’”
The “vineyard of foaming wine” today on earth may be compared to the remnant of the branches in that symbolic “vine” in which the spirit-begotten Christians of the “holy nation” are productive members. Consequently, there rests upon them the obligation to bear much fruit. (John 15:5) According to Isaiah’s prophecy, it was to be in the time of restoration of Jehovah’s people to his favor that the song about the “vineyard of foaming wine” was to be sung. (Compare Isaiah 27:13.) This would locate the modern fulfillment of this glowing prophecy as going into effect with the postwar year of 1919, and the facts of history verify its fulfillment down till now. Today Jehovah has no “rage” against his people, neither against the remnant of his “holy nation,” his “people for special possession,” nor against the loyal Christians who look forward to eternal life on earth. Mercifully he has turned his favor to them, which accounts for their spiritual prosperity and fruitfulness.
5. By what from this figurative vineyard have people been gladdened, and what can they recount about it?
5 This spiritual “nation,” along with its hardworking associates, has been like a productive vineyard that has produced much “foaming wine.” It is a spiritual wine that has made the heart of Jehovah and of man glad. (Judges 9:13) For this valid reason the people who have been gladdened by drinking this spiritual beverage can joyfully sing and can recount all that the Divine Cultivator of the “vineyard” has done for this symbolic “vineyard.” Figuratively speaking, he has indeed ‘watered’ this “vineyard” for its constant refreshment, so that juicy, luscious fruit has been produced, with gladdening effect.
A Contrast—“The Vine of the Earth”
6. What, however, will be the experience of “the vine of the earth,” according to Revelation chapter 14?
6 This has not been the case with what the last book of the Bible calls “the vine of the earth.” Shortly, the divine command will be given to the heavenly executional forces: “Put your sharp sickle in and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, because its grapes have become ripe.” Then, as the prophetic Revelation goes on to show, “the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and he hurled it into the great winepress of the anger of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress as high up as the bridles of the horses, for a distance of a thousand six hundred furlongs.” (Revelation 14:18-20) So it will happen to the governmental part of the Devil’s visible organization on earth; it is something of which he is the cultivator, and it is in opposition to “the true vine” of which Jehovah God is the Cultivator. There will be no restoration of “the vine of the earth” at all!
7-9. What double fulfillment does Isaiah 27:7-13 have, and at what times?
7 However, this prophecy of Isaiah chapter 27 is really a prophecy of restoration, first of the nation of natural Israel and then of spiritual Israel in our own 20th century. This is evident from what the prophecy says in Isa 27 verse 7-13 down to verse 13, with which the chapter closes. Those verses read:
8 “As with the stroke of one striking him does one have to strike him? Or as with the slaughter of his killed ones does he have to be killed? With a scare cry you will contend with her when sending her forth. He must expel her with his blast, a hard one in the day of the east wind. Therefore by this means the error of Jacob will be atoned for, and this is all the fruit when he takes away his sin, when he makes all the stones of the altar like chalkstones that have been pulverized, so that the sacred poles and the incense stands will not rise up. For the fortified city will be solitary, the pasture ground will be left to itself and abandoned like a wilderness. There the calf will graze, and there it will lie down; and he will actually consume her boughs. When her sprigs have dried up, women coming in will break them off, lighting them up. For it is not a people of keen understanding. That is why its Maker will show it no mercy, and its own Former will show it no favor.
9 “And it must occur in that day that Jehovah will beat off the fruit, from the flowing stream of the River to the torrent valley of Egypt, and so you yourselves will be picked up one after the other, O sons of Israel. And it must occur in that day that there will be a blowing on a great horn, and those who are perishing in the land of Assyria and those who are dispersed in the land of Egypt will certainly come and bow down to Jehovah in the holy mountain in Jerusalem.”
10. What world power was prominent in the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, and how did it fare in its intended attack upon the capital of the kingdom of Judah?
10 In the days of this prophecy of Isaiah, Assyria had become the dominant world power in the earth, displacing the first of the series of seven world powers, although Egypt was still functioning but as a subsidiary power. The ten-tribe kingdom of Israel had broken away from the rule of the royal house of King David of the tribe of Judah. So it was against the city of Jerusalem that the king of Assyria came to demand its complete surrender, if it did not want to be destroyed. However, Jehovah fought for the kingdom of Judah and sent haughty King Sennacherib reeling back homeward in disgraceful defeat.—Isaiah, chapters 36 and 37.
11. By the emperor of what world power was the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah effected, and how does Isaiah 27 refer to this event?
11 Hence, an emperor of a succeeding world power, the Babylonian World Power, was authorized to destroy the holy city of Jerusalem and its temple. According to Biblical indications, this occurred in the year 607 B.C.E., at the hand of Emperor Nebuchadnezzar. He was the one that carried off captives into the land of Babylonia, to spend 70 years of exile there. It was in view of the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the taking of exiles into Babylonian captivity for 70 years that the questions were properly raised:
“As with the stroke of one striking him [the nation of Israel] does one have to strike him?” (Isaiah 27:7)
As never before in its national history since 1513 B.C.E., God’s nation was struck with a calamitous blow in 607 B.C.E., a stroke that almost spelled its destruction. Great was the mortality of the besieged city of Jerusalem. Yes, Jehovah saw that the need for this drastic action was vital, and it had to take place. He saw the dire need for contending with those who should have remained his friends, his own befriended ones, with whom he had entered into the Law covenant through the mediator Moses.
12. So what question could Jehovah inspire the prophet Isaiah to ask with reference to Israel’s experience, and thus what was the effect on Israel’s relationship with Jehovah?
12 Jehovah could thus ask further:
“Or as with the slaughter of his killed ones does he [the nation of Israel, or Jacob] have to be killed?” (Isaiah 27:7)
Ah, yes, for now it had become necessary for Jehovah to contend with his once favored people, raising a frightful cry, a “scare cry,” from the martial forces of the Babylonian World Power, the third in Bible history. Hence the divine statement:
“With a scare cry you will contend with her when sending her forth. He must expel her with his blast, a hard one in the day of the east wind [to indicate the direction from which the scary war cry would come].” (Isaiah 27:8)
With such a preliminary he would send forth the unfaithful nation that had once been like a typical wife to him as his visible organization on earth. Now he was dismissing her from her God-given homeland and sending her off at the hands of the Babylonian captors to a distant land, as if temporarily divorced.—Compare Isaiah 50:1.
13. How, according to Isaiah’s prophecy, was the nation of Israel going to make atonement for its violation of God’s covenant?
13 Now the time had come for the nation of Israel, or Jacob, to make atonement for its “error” by more costly means than animal sacrifices offered up on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem. This is what Jehovah prescribed in behalf of his wifelike organization, saying:
“Therefore by this means the error of Jacob will be atoned for, and this is all the fruit when he takes away his sin, when he makes all the stones of the altar like chalkstones that have been pulverized, so that the sacred poles and the incense stands will not rise up.” (Isaiah 27:9)
What an expression of divine fury, or rage, the fulfillment of this prophecy would be, justifiably so! No more would the idolatrous sacred poles and the incense stands rise up again within his chastised nation.
14. To what sort of desolation was the land of Israel to be reduced, and how was her development as a figurative tree to be dealt with?
14 Indicating the desolation that was to be brought upon this typical wifelike nation of ancient Israel, Jehovah adds:
“For the fortified city will be solitary, the pasture ground will be left to itself and abandoned like a wilderness.”
The once populous land will be deserted, to become a mere grazing place for the time being.
“There the calf will graze, and there it will lie down; and he [Jehovah, by his agency] will actually consume her boughs. When her sprigs have dried up, women coming in will break them off, lighting them up [to burn].” (Isaiah 27:10, 11)
Thus Jehovah’s typical wifelike nation would be reduced to mere fuel for the fire, for the feminine sex would without hardship be strong enough to avail themselves of what was left of it. What a sorry state to which to be reduced this would be for the typical wifelike organization of Israel! But why would such crushing steps have to be taken by such a husbandlike Deity as Jehovah? Listen:
15. In view of Jehovah’s special treatment, what kind of people should the nation of Israel have proved to be, but why did they come to be like the idol-worshiping nations?
15 “For it is not a people of keen understanding. That is why its Maker will show it no mercy, and its own Former will show it no favor.” (Isaiah 27:11)
With all the provision that Jehovah had made for the education and enlightenment of his wonderfully formed organization, the Israelites should have proved to be a people with great intelligence. They should have been sharp and discerning enough to see the vanity of idol worship, yes, discerning enough to see through the senselessness of idolatrous worship, practiced by the ignorant nations outside of covenant relationship with the one living and true God, Jehovah. But in view of the invisibility of their heavenly Maker and Former, they lost faith and chose to turn to visible man-made gods, to their own downfall. That was why further favor and divine mercy were withdrawn from such self-willed people.
Deliverance From Exile
16. In behalf of restoring his people, to what would Jehovah have to direct his attention?
16 So now, to restore them to his worship in their homeland, it would be necessary for Jehovah to turn his attention to the land of Babylonia through which the great “River,” the Euphrates, flowed. He would give attention down southward even toward the land of Egypt, for in such localities his people had come to be exiled from him for their discipline. In this behalf Jehovah had to fulfill his next statement of purpose:
“And it must occur in that day that Jehovah will beat off the fruit, from the flowing stream of the River [Euphrates] to the torrent valley of Egypt [the wadi at the southwestern border of the Promised Land], and so you yourselves will be picked up one after the other, O sons of Israel.”—Isaiah 27:12; compare Numbers 34:2, 5.
17. How did Jehovah break off his people from their exiled state, and by what means?
17 In order for Jehovah to repatriate his people to their homeland of Judah, he would have to break off the exiled people like fruit, thus loosing them. This he effected by overturning the world power of Babylonia and ushering in the Medo-Persian Empire, the fourth world power of Bible history. The decree of the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great at the beginning of his reign was issued for the liberation of Jehovah’s exiled people and for their return to the site of ancient Jerusalem to rebuild Jehovah’s temple. This return came at the close of the 70 years of Jewish exile, in 537 B.C.E.—Isaiah 45:1-7.
18. What must have been the reaction of the exiles at the decree for their liberation?
18 The disciplined Israelites in Babylonia, and also in Assyria and Egypt, were Jehovah’s property, and he was entitled to break them off like symbolic fruit from involuntary exile and dispersion and thus to show them mercy, undeserved kindness. Oh, how those ancient Israelites must have rejoiced over that decree of Cyrus, and how zealous they must have displayed themselves in taking full advantage of the glorious opportunity afforded them! What, then, was there to be said about that auspicious “day”?
19. (a) To whom were the Israelites who were dispersed in Assyria and in Egypt foretold to bow down? (b) What would this mean respecting the worship of Jehovah at the original temple site, and this with overtones for what modern spiritual nation?
19 “And it must occur in that day that there will be a blowing on a great horn, and those who are perishing in the land of Assyria and those who are dispersed in the land of Egypt will certainly come and bow down to Jehovah in the holy mountain in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 27:13)
What else did that mean but the repopulating of the Promised Land and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, restored for the worship of the Former and Maker of the revived nation of Israel? This had to take place according to the earlier words of the prophet Isaiah set out in verse 6. The land of his repatriated people had to become a land teeming with inhabitants, unitedly engaged in his worship at his temple, even though this restored place of worship might not have the grandeur of the magnificent temple built by King Solomon. In this way it was to foreshadow the modern-day spiritual fulfillment involving “the Israel of God,” in filling all “the productive land” with life-giving fruit, or “produce.”—Galatians 6:16; Isaiah 27:6.
Interestingly, the Oxford NIV Scofield Study Bible (1984) comments on Luke 21:24: “The ‘times of the Gentiles’ began with the captivity of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chr. 36:1-21). Since that time Jerusalem has been, as Christ said, ‘trampled on by the Gentiles.’”
How Do You Answer?
□ When and how did natural Israel experience a “stroke,” as foretold at Isaiah 27:7?
□ Who in modern times are involved in the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 27?
□ How have these become like a productive vineyard producing “foaming wine”?
[Picture on page 13]
Through the Babylonians, Jehovah dealt a severe blow in 607 B.C.E.