Witnesses Against the False God
“‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen.’”—ISAIAH 43:10.
1. Who is the true God, and in what respects is he supreme above the multitude of gods worshiped today?
WHO is the true God? Today, this most important question faces all mankind. Although humans worship a multitude of gods, only One can give us life and offer us a happy future. Only of One can it be said: “By him we have life and move and exist.” (Acts 17:28) Indeed, only one God has the right to be worshiped. As the heavenly chorus in the book of Revelation says: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”—Revelation 4:11.
2, 3. (a) How did Satan lyingly challenge Jehovah’s right to be worshiped? (b) What was the result of Eve’s sin for Eve and her children, and what was the result for Satan?
2 In the garden of Eden, Satan lyingly challenged Jehovah’s right to be worshiped. Using a serpent, he told Eve that if she rebelled against Jehovah’s law and ate from the tree that Jehovah had forbidden, she herself would be like God. His words were: “God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Genesis 3:5) Eve believed the serpent and ate the forbidden fruit.
3 Of course, Satan lied. (John 8:44) The only way Eve became “like God” when she sinned was that she took it upon herself to decide what was right and what was wrong, something that should have been left to Jehovah. And despite Satan’s lie, eventually she died. So the only real beneficiary of Eve’s sin was Satan. Indeed, Satan’s unstated goal in persuading Eve to sin was to become a god himself. When Eve sinned, she became his first human follower, and soon she was joined by Adam. Most of their children were not only born “in sin” but also fell under Satan’s influence, and in a short time, a whole world that was alienated from the true God came into existence.—Genesis 6:5; Psalm 51:5.
4. (a) Who is the god of this world? (b) Of what is there an urgent need?
4 That world was destroyed in the Flood. (2 Peter 3:6) After the Flood a second world alienated from Jehovah developed, and it still exists. Of it the Bible says: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) By its acting against the spirit and the letter of Jehovah’s law, this world serves Satan’s ends. He is its god. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Yet, he is basically an impotent god. He cannot make people happy or give them life; only Jehovah can do that. Hence, people who want a fulfilled life and a better world must first learn that Jehovah is the true God and then learn to do his will. (Psalm 37:18, 27, 28; Ecclesiastes 12:13) There is thus an urgent need for men and women of faith to witness, or proclaim the truth, about Jehovah.
5. What “cloud of witnesses” did Paul mention? Name some people that he lists.
5 Right from the beginning, such faithful individuals have appeared on the world scene. The apostle Paul, in Hebrews chapter 11, gives a long list of them and calls them “so great a cloud of witnesses.” (Hebrews 12:1) Adam and Eve’s second son, Abel, was the first on Paul’s list. Enoch and Noah are also mentioned from the time before the Flood. (Hebrews 11:4, 5, 7) Prominent is Abraham, the ancestor of the Jewish race. Abraham, who is called “Jehovah’s friend,” became the forefather of Jesus, “the faithful and true witness.”—James 2:23; Revelation 3:14.
Abraham’s Witness for the Truth
6, 7. In what ways were Abraham’s life and actions a witness that Jehovah is the true God?
6 How did Abraham serve as a witness? By his strong faith in and loyal obedience to Jehovah. When he was summoned to leave the urban center of Ur and live out the rest of his life in a distant land, Abraham obeyed. (Genesis 15:7; Acts 7:2-4) Wandering tribesmen will often abandon their traveling life and settle for the more secure life of the city. Hence, when Abraham left the city to take up life in tents, he gave strong evidence of his trust in Jehovah God. His obedience was a witness to onlookers. Jehovah richly blessed Abraham for his faith. Although living in tents, Abraham prospered materially. When Lot and his family were carried away captive, Jehovah gave Abraham success in his pursuit, so that he was able to rescue them. Abraham’s wife bore a son in her old age, and thus Jehovah’s promise that Abraham would father a seed was confirmed. Through Abraham, people saw that Jehovah is a living God who fulfills his promises.—Genesis 12:1-3; 14:14-16; 21:1-7.
7 When returning from rescuing Lot, Abraham was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem (later called Jerusalem), who addressed Abraham as “Abram of the Most High God.” The king of Sodom also met him and wanted to give him gifts. Abraham refused. Why? He did not want there to be any doubt as to the Source of his blessings. He said: “I do lift up my hand in an oath to Jehovah the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth, that, from a thread to a sandal lace, no, I shall take nothing from anything that is yours, in order that you may not say, ‘It was I who made Abram rich.’” (Genesis 14:17-24) What a fine witness Abraham was!
A Nation of Witnesses
8. How did Moses show great faith in Jehovah?
8 Moses, a descendant of Abraham, also appears on Paul’s list of witnesses. Moses turned his back on the riches of Egypt and later boldly faced the ruler of that great world power in order to lead the children of Israel to freedom. Where did he get the courage? From his faith. Paul says: “[Moses] continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27) The gods of Egypt were visible, touchable. Even today, their statues impress people. But Jehovah, though invisible, was far more real to Moses than all those false gods. Moses had no doubt that Jehovah existed and that he would reward His worshipers. (Hebrews 11:6) Moses became an outstanding witness.
9. How was the nation of Israel to serve Jehovah?
9 After leading the Israelites to freedom, Moses became the mediator of a covenant between Jehovah and the descendants of Abraham through Jacob. As a result, the nation of Israel came into existence as Jehovah’s special possession. (Exodus 19:5, 6) For the first time, a national witness was to be given. Jehovah’s words through Isaiah, some 800 years later, applied in principle from the beginning of the nation’s existence: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One.’” (Isaiah 43:10) How would this new nation serve as Jehovah’s witnesses? By their faith and obedience and through Jehovah’s actions in their behalf.
10. In what way did Jehovah’s powerful works in behalf of Israel provide a witness, and with what results?
10 Some 40 years after its beginning, Israel was about to take possession of the Promised Land. Spies went out to reconnoiter the city of Jericho, and Rahab, an inhabitant of Jericho, protected them. Why? She said: “We have heard how Jehovah dried up the waters of the Red Sea from before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, namely, Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. When we got to hear it, then our hearts began to melt, and no spirit has arisen yet in anybody because of you, for Jehovah your God is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:10, 11) The report of Jehovah’s powerful works moved Rahab and her family to leave Jericho and its false gods and to worship Jehovah with Israel. Clearly, Jehovah had given a powerful witness through Israel.—Joshua 6:25.
11. What responsibility did all Israelite parents have as to witnessing?
11 While the Israelites were still in Egypt, Jehovah sent Moses to Pharaoh and said: “Go in to Pharaoh, because I—I have let his heart and the hearts of his servants become unresponsive, in order that I may set these signs of mine right before him, and in order that you may declare in the ears of your son and your son’s son how severely I have dealt with Egypt and my signs that I have established among them; and you will certainly know that I am Jehovah.” (Exodus 10:1, 2) Obedient Israelites would tell their children of Jehovah’s mighty acts. Their children, in turn, would tell of them to their children, and so it would be done from generation to generation. Thus, Jehovah’s powerful deeds would be remembered. Likewise today, parents have the responsibility of witnessing to their children.—Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Proverbs 22:6.
12. How did Jehovah’s blessing on Solomon and Israel serve as a witness?
12 Jehovah’s rich blessing on Israel when it was faithful served as a witness to surrounding nations. As Moses said after recounting Jehovah’s promised blessings: “All the peoples of the earth will have to see that Jehovah’s name has been called upon you, and they will indeed be afraid of you.” (Deuteronomy 28:10) Solomon was given wisdom and wealth because of his faith. Under him the nation prospered and enjoyed a long period of peace. Concerning that time we read: “They kept coming from all the peoples to hear Solomon’s wisdom, even from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.” (1 Kings 4:25, 29, 30, 34) Prominent among Solomon’s visitors was the queen of Sheba. After seeing for herself Jehovah’s blessing on the nation and its king, she said: “May Jehovah your God come to be blessed, who has taken delight in you by putting you upon his throne as king for Jehovah your God; because your God loved Israel.”—2 Chronicles 9:8.
13. What may have been Israel’s most effective witness, and how do we still benefit from it?
13 The apostle Paul mentioned what was perhaps Israel’s most effective witness. When discussing fleshly Israel with the Christian congregation in Rome, he said: “They were entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God.” (Romans 3:1, 2) Starting with Moses, certain faithful Israelites were inspired to record in writing Jehovah’s dealings with Israel, as well as his counsel, his laws, and his prophecies. Through these writings those ancient scribes bore witness to all generations to come—including ours today—that there is only one God, and his name is Jehovah.—Daniel 12:9; 1 Peter 1:10-12.
14. Why did some who witnessed for Jehovah suffer persecution?
14 Unhappily, Israel frequently failed to exercise faith, and then Jehovah had to send witnesses to his own nation. Many of these were persecuted. Paul said that some “received their trial by mockings and scourgings, indeed, more than that, by bonds and prisons.” (Hebrews 11:36) Faithful witnesses indeed! How sad that their persecutions often came from fellow members of Jehovah’s chosen nation! (Matthew 23:31, 37) In fact, the sin of the nation became so great that in 607 B.C.E., Jehovah brought in the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem with its temple and lead the majority of surviving Israelites off into exile. (Jeremiah 20:4; 21:10) Was that the end of the national witness to Jehovah’s name? No.
A Trial of Gods
15. How was a witness given even in Babylonian exile?
15 Even in Babylonian exile, faithful members of the nation did not hesitate to witness about Jehovah’s Godship and power. For example, Daniel boldly interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, explained the writing on the wall for Belshazzar, and refused to compromise before Darius in the matter of prayer. The three Hebrews too, when refusing to bow to an image, gave Nebuchadnezzar a marvelous witness.—Daniel 3:13-18; 5:13-29; 6:4-27.
16. How did Jehovah foretell the return of Israel to their land, and what would be the purpose of this return?
16 Nevertheless, Jehovah purposed that a national witness would again be given on the soil of Israel. Ezekiel, who prophesied among the exiled Jews in Babylon, wrote of Jehovah’s determination with regard to the devastated land: “I will multiply upon you humankind, the whole house of Israel, all of it, and the cities must become inhabited, and the devastated places themselves will be rebuilt.” (Ezekiel 36:10) Why would Jehovah do this? Primarily as a witness to his own name. Through Ezekiel he said: “Not for your sakes am I doing it, O house of Israel, but for my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations.”—Ezekiel 36:22; Jeremiah 50:28.
17. What is the context of the words of Isaiah 43:10?
17 It was when prophesying Israel’s return from Babylonian exile that the prophet Isaiah was inspired to pen the words of Isaiah 43:10, saying that Israel was Jehovah’s witness, his servant. In Isaiah 43 and 44, Jehovah is described as Israel’s Creator, Former, God, Holy One, Savior, Repurchaser, King, and Maker. (Isaiah 43:3, 14, 15; 44:2) Israel’s exile was allowed because the nation repeatedly failed to glorify him as such. However, they were still his people. Jehovah had said to them: “Do not be afraid, for I have repurchased you. I have called you by your name. You are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) Israel’s exile in Babylon would end.
18. How did the liberation of Israel from Babylon prove that Jehovah is the only true God?
18 Indeed, Jehovah made the liberation of Israel from Babylon into a trial of gods. He challenged the false gods of the nations to bring forth their witnesses, and he named Israel as his witness. (Isaiah 43:9, 12) When he broke the bars of Israel’s exile, he proved that the gods of Babylon were no gods at all and that he is the only true God. (Isaiah 43:14, 15) When, some 200 years before the event, he named Cyrus the Persian as his servant in freeing the Jews, he gave further proof of his Godship. (Isaiah 44:28) Israel would be liberated. Why? Jehovah explains: “That they [Israel] should recount the praise of me.” (Isaiah 43:21) It would give further opportunity for a witness.
19. What witness was given by Cyrus’ inviting the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and by the acts of faithful Jews after that return?
19 When the time came, Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon just as prophesied. Cyrus, though a pagan, proclaimed Jehovah’s Godship when he issued a pronouncement to the Jews in Babylon: “Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God prove to be with him. So let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel—he is the true God—which was in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:3) Many Jews responded. They trekked back to the Promised Land and erected an altar on the ancient temple site. Despite discouragement and strong opposition, they were finally able to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. All of this happened, as Jehovah himself said, “not by a military force, nor by power, but by [his] spirit.” (Zechariah 4:6) These accomplishments gave further evidence that Jehovah is the true God.
20. Despite Israel’s weaknesses, what can be said about their giving a witness to Jehovah’s name in the ancient world?
20 Thus, Jehovah continued to use Israel, though a nation of imperfect and sometimes rebellious people, as his witness. In the pre-Christian world, that nation, with its temple and priesthood, stood as the world center of true worship. Whoever reads in the Hebrew Scriptures of Jehovah’s acts in relation to Israel can have no doubt whatsoever that there is only one true God, and his name is Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 6:4; Zechariah 14:9) However, a much greater witness was to be given to Jehovah’s name, and we shall discuss this in the following article.
Do You Remember?
□ How did Abraham give a witness that Jehovah is the true God?
□ What outstanding quality of Moses enabled him to be a faithful witness?
□ In what ways did Israel give a national witness about Jehovah?
□ How was the liberation of Israel from Babylon a demonstration that Jehovah is the only true God?
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Through his faith and obedience, Abraham gave an outstanding witness to Jehovah’s Godship