A Pure Language for All Nations
“Then I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language, in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.”—ZEPHANIAH 3:9.
1, 2. (a) In fulfillment of Zephaniah 3:9, what is Jehovah doing in our day? (b) To understand how the prophecy of Zephaniah affects us, what questions need to be answered?
JEHOVAH GOD is accomplishing in our day a work that is truly marvelous. He is uniting people out of all nations. As he long ago foretold in his Holy Word, he is doing it by teaching them a new language.—Zephaniah 3:9.
2 What is that language? Why is it necessary? What does learning it require of us personally?
The Gift of Speech
3. (a) With what marvelous gift was Adam endowed? (b) What was the language that Adam spoke?
3 The ability to communicate by means of speech is a divine gift that sets humankind apart from all the animal creation. The first human, Adam, was created with a mind that was capable of intelligent thought. He was endowed with vocal cords, a tongue, and lips that could be used for speech, as well as a vocabulary and the ability to coin new words. Adam could understand when Jehovah spoke to him, and Adam, in turn, could put his thoughts into words. (Genesis 1:28-30; 2:16, 17, 19-23) The language given to Adam was evidently the one that later came to be known as Hebrew. For at least the first 1,757 years of human existence, all mankind evidently continued to speak that one language.—Genesis 11:1.
4. How did events in the days of Nimrod affect human language?
4 Then, in the days of Nimrod, in order to frustrate the efforts of wicked men, Jehovah confused the language of all who had allowed themselves to be regimented to share in building the tower of Babel. (Genesis 11:3-9) It appears that Jehovah first blotted out all memory of their previous common language and then introduced new languages into their minds. This involved not only new vocabularies but also new grammars and new patterns of thought. From the languages that Jehovah originated at Babel, others gradually developed until today, according to language academies, some three thousand tongues are spoken throughout the earth.
5. How can we determine what “the change to a pure language” involves?
5 For people who are speaking all these languages, would “the change to a pure language” require that they abandon their native tongue and learn the original language that God gave to Adam? The circumstances that surrounded the giving of the prophecy help to answer that question.
Need for a Pure Language
6-8. (a) What religious situation had developed in Judah before the giving of the prophecy of Zephaniah 3:9? (b) In the nations surrounding Judah, what attitude prevailed?
6 The kingdom of Judah had recently been ruled over first by Manasseh and then by Amon, who had set up altars to Baal, employed divination, and promoted spiritistic practices. (2 Kings 21:1-6; 2 Chronicles 33:21-23) As a result, during the reign of Amon’s son and successor, Josiah, Jehovah commissioned his prophet Zephaniah to warn that divine judgment was going to be executed on the land.—Zephaniah 1:1, 2.
7 Even though the Judeans knew from their own history and from the inspired Scriptures that Jehovah is the true God, they were indulging in the immoral rites of Baal worship. They bowed down to the sun and the moon and the constellations of the zodiac, which was in direct violation of God’s law. (Deuteronomy 4:19; 2 Kings 23:5) On top of all of this, they were participating in a form of interfaith, acting as if all religion were the same, by making sworn oaths both to Jehovah and in the name of the false god Malcam. Their attitude was that “Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.” (Zephaniah 1:4-6, 12) As for the nations around Judah, all of them had a record of opposition to Jehovah and his people, so they too were in line to have divine justice executed upon them.—Zephaniah 2:4-15.
8 It is against such a background of events that Jehovah foretold that he would “give to peoples the change to a pure language, in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.” (Zephaniah 3:9) What, then, is that pure language?
9. (a) Why is the pure language not Hebrew or simply the written Word of God? (b) What is that pure language, and how does it affect the lives of those who speak it?
9 Is it the Hebrew language? No; the people of Judah already had that, but the things they were saying and doing were obviously not pure and upright in Jehovah’s eyes. And the pure language is not simply the written Word of God. They also had that. But what they needed was a proper understanding of the truth about God and his purposes, and only Jehovah could provide that by means of his spirit. When they learned to speak that pure language, their thinking, their speech, their conduct, would all center on recognition of the fact that Jehovah is the only true God. (Zephaniah 2:3) They would put their trust in him and give full support to his sovereignty. This is of special interest to us today. Why?
Those Who Are Given the Pure Language
10. During what period of time was the prophecy of Zephaniah 3:9 due to be fulfilled?
10 Pointing to fulfillment of the prophecy at a particular period of time, Zephaniah 3:9 says: “For then I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language.” When is that? Zep 3 Verse 8 answers that it is during the time that Jehovah is ‘gathering the nations,’ before he ‘pours out upon them his burning anger,’ that he gives to meek ones of the earth the change to a pure language.
11. (a) What two fulfillments did Zephaniah 3:9 have before modern times? (b) How is its fulfillment today different?
11 During the days of King Josiah, before Jehovah allowed the Babylonian armies to execute judgment, many forsook false worship and, instead, served Jehovah. (2 Chronicles 34:3-33) Again, in the first century C.E., before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, thousands of people learned the truth about God and his purpose and became united in his service. At that time the language of truth was greatly enriched by the things that Jesus Christ did in fulfillment of Jehovah’s purpose. But it is in our own day that Zephaniah’s prophecy is being fulfilled on a global scale. All nations are now being gathered to the war of the great day of God the Almighty at Armageddon. (Revelation 16:14, 16) That gathering has been under way since the birth of the Kingdom in 1914. And it is during this same period that Jehovah has been giving to peoples worldwide the change to a pure language in fulfillment of this prophecy. Learning that language is of vital importance because the survivors of the coming great tribulation will be people who have truly made that pure language their language.—Joel 2:32.
12. (a) What bearing does the vision recorded at Isaiah 6 have on the prophecy regarding a pure language? (b) Why did the anointed remnant need help if they were to continue to be acceptable for Jehovah’s service?
12 In accord with this, it was early in the era following World War I that Jehovah began to open the eyes of understanding of his anointed servants to the marvelous vision that is recorded at Isaiah chapter 6. (Isa 6 Verses 1-4) This vision emphasizes the importance of our having clean lips in order to serve Jehovah acceptably. It shows that, in the superlative sense, Jehovah is holy. His servants must also reflect that quality. (1 Peter 1:15, 16) But the anointed remnant needed help in this regard. During World War I, they had to some extent allowed themselves to get spotted up with involvement in the affairs of the world. “The fear of Jehovah is pure,” or clean, but they had let fear of man and of human organizations affect their lips, silencing their proclamation of God’s Word to a large extent. (Psalm 19:9) Through contact with Christendom, the remnant were still soiled by some of her traditions and practices.
13, 14. (a) How did the remnant show the right attitude, and what action did Jehovah take in their behalf? (b) In what way did Jehovah give the remnant a pure language?
13 Realizing their situation, the remnant said, as did the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to me! For I am as good as brought to silence, because a man unclean in lips I am, and in among a people unclean in lips I am dwelling; for my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of armies, himself!” (Isaiah 6:5) They recognized that their condition was unacceptable. They did not weakly persist in a wrong course or stubbornly refuse to accept Jehovah’s reproof. They did not join the clergy when these paid mere lip service to God’s Kingdom and then endorsed the League of Nations as if it were that Kingdom.
14 Because of the repentant attitude of that humble remnant, Jehovah in his undeserved kindness proceeded to cleanse their lips. Isaiah 6:6, 7 tells us: “At that, one of the seraphs flew to me, and in his hand there was a glowing coal that he had taken with tongs off the altar. And he proceeded to touch my mouth and to say: ‘Look! This has touched your lips, and your error has departed and your sin itself is atoned for.’” It was the cleansing message from God’s Word that destroyed as by fire the traditions and teachings of men. It purged from their hearts the fear of man and replaced it with a burning zeal to use their lips to honor Jehovah. Thus Jehovah was fulfilling his promise to “give to peoples the change to a pure language [literally, a clean lip], in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah.”—Zephaniah 3:9.
15. How was the response of the remnant in harmony with the reason for which Jehovah gave them the pure language?
15 So when the Isaiah class in modern times began to hear the voice of Jehovah asking, as recorded at Isaiah 6:8: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” they gladly responded: “Here I am! Send me.” It was not easy for all of them to get started in the public ministry, but they wanted to be used by God as a people for his name. His spirit strengthened them. Their numbers grew.
16. (a) What unexpected results did the preaching of the remnant yield? (b) How do the great crowd give evidence that they too now speak the pure language?
16 In time it became evident that their preaching was yielding unexpected results. Through them, Jehovah was helping another group to learn the pure language. (Isaiah 55:5) These did not share the hope of heavenly life, but they counted it a privilege to be companions of the remnant of Kingdom heirs and to serve shoulder to shoulder with them as proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. Progressively, these have come out of “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” until they now make up “a great crowd” numbering into the millions. The speech that issues forth from their mouths is not the sort that would identify them with any of the divisive elements of the world. They are not pinning their hopes on any man or any human organization. Instead, “they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”—Revelation 7:9, 10.
What Learning the Language Requires of Us
17. Why is it important that we learn the pure language well and improve in our ability to use it?
17 Regardless of how long we have been in touch with Jehovah’s organization, there is much that we can do to improve our knowledge of the pure language and our ability to use it well. It is important to put forth the effort to do that. Why? Because this is an indication of our love for the truth.
18, 19. (a) Right from the outset, why is it important to cultivate a strong love for the truth? (b) Why is it important to continue to nourish that love?
18 At the outset, such love helps to open a person’s mind and heart so that he is able to understand scriptures that are pointed out to him; it moves him to draw close to Jehovah and to appreciate His organization. Thus, love of the truth is a key to breaking free from the shackles of false religion. Some people profess an interest in the Bible’s message but never really let go of all the appendages of false religion and its permissive way of life. Why not? As explained at 2 Thessalonians 2:10, they do not “accept the love of the truth that they might be saved.” How vital that we have that love!
19 Once we embrace the truth, our nourishing that love is a major factor in our spiritual development. Keep in mind that Jehovah refers to the truth as a “language.” When a person learns a new language, he has to put forth diligent effort to build his vocabulary, pronounce words correctly, learn the details of grammar, and so forth. Love of the new language and of the people who speak it will help him to keep making progress. He may be able to speak the language to some extent in a few months, but it takes years of conscientious effort to speak it like a native. That same sort of effort is needed in order to master the pure language.
20. (a) What makes the pure language truly pure? (b) Why is great care needed on the part of every one of us?
20 It is especially noteworthy that the language that God gives his servants is said to be pure. This is true, not because of grammatical construction, but because it gives evidence of moral and spiritual cleanness. There is no allowance in this language for lying, deceit, or a tricky tongue. Those who speak this language must always speak truth. (Zephaniah 3:13; Ephesians 4:25) Their speech must likewise reflect Jehovah’s high standards regarding sexual morality. (Ephesians 5:3, 4) The Scriptures also make us aware that everything connected with Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, is unclean. (Revelation 18:2-4) The depictions of its gods are called “dungy idols.” (Jeremiah 50:2) Appropriately, then, those who learn the pure language must dispose of the physical appendages of false worship, reject its teachings, break free from its celebrations, and also eliminate from their speech expressions that reflect its wrong thinking. Besides this, at Revelation 16:13-16, we are put on notice that the propaganda that is gathering the nations in opposition to God’s Kingdom is also unclean, being inspired by demons. So we need to be alert not to let any of these unclean things infect our speech.
21. What is there to the pure language in addition to words spoken?
21 What we are learning is called a language, and appropriately so, but that does not mean that those who speak it merely learn how to use expressions that are common to Jehovah’s people. Tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures are also important. These may convey messages that words alone do not. They frequently reflect what we truly are inside. They can indicate whether we have rooted out jealousy, contentions, and fits of anger, all of which are works of the sinful flesh. When God’s spirit freely operates in our lives, its fruitage becomes manifest in the way that we communicate with others.—Galatians 5:19-23; Ephesians 4:31, 32.
22. When we learn the pure language well, how does it affect our making of decisions?
22 Anyone who has learned a new language knows that a real milestone has been reached when he finds himself actually thinking in the new language, instead of translating from his native tongue. So, too, when we study the truth, put forth earnest effort to apply it in our lives, and regularly share it with others, we gradually find ourselves thinking in terms of the truth. We are not forever comparing the old with the new and struggling to make a choice. Even in little things, Bible principles come to mind to provide needed direction.—Proverbs 4:1-12.
23. Regardless of what their native tongue may be, what shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses earth wide all speak the pure language?
23 It is true that there are thousands of languages used by mankind, but the pure language can be expressed in all of these. Unitedly, earth wide, Jehovah’s Witnesses are making good use of the pure language as they serve shoulder to shoulder giving a public witness that brings honor to Jehovah, our loving God.
Questions for Review
□ What is included in the gift of speech?
□ What is the pure language?
□ Toward whom has Zephaniah 3:9 been fulfilled?
□ How can we give evidence that we truly love the pure language?
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Those who know the pure language share it with others
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Whatever their native tongue, Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide speak the pure language