Jehovah Gives Peace and Truth in Abundance
“I will heal them and reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.”—JEREMIAH 33:6.
1, 2. (a) As to peace, what is the record of the nations? (b) In 607 B.C.E., what lesson did Jehovah teach Israel about peace?
PEACE! How desirable that is, yet how rare it has been in human history! The 20th century, especially, has not been a century of peace. Rather, it has seen the two most destructive wars in human history. After the first world war, the League of Nations was set up to maintain world peace. That organization failed. After the second world war, the United Nations organization was established with the same goal. We need only read the daily newspapers to see how utterly it too is failing.
2 Should we be surprised that human organizations cannot bring peace? Not at all. More than 2,500 years ago, God’s chosen people, Israel, were taught a lesson in this regard. In the seventh century B.C.E., Israel’s peace was threatened by the ascendant world power, Babylon. Israel looked to Egypt for peace. Egypt failed. (Jeremiah 37:5-8; Ezekiel 17:11-15) In 607 B.C.E., Babylonian armies tore down the walls of Jerusalem and burned Jehovah’s temple. Thus Israel learned the hard way the futility of relying on human organizations. Instead of enjoying peace, the nation was dragged off into exile in Babylon.—2 Chronicles 36:17-21.
3. In fulfillment of Jehovah’s words through Jeremiah, what historical events taught Israel a second vital lesson about peace?
3 Before the fall of Jerusalem, however, Jehovah had revealed that he, not Egypt, would bring real peace to Israel. Through Jeremiah he promised: “I will heal them and reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth. And I will bring back the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel, and I will build them just as at the start.” (Jeremiah 33:6, 7) Jehovah’s promise began to be fulfilled in 539 B.C.E. when Babylon was conquered and freedom was offered to the Israelite exiles. (2 Chronicles 36:22, 23) By the latter part of 537 B.C.E., a group of Israelites celebrated the Festival of Booths on the soil of Israel for the first time in 70 years! After the festival, they set out to rebuild Jehovah’s temple. How did they feel about this? The record says: “They shouted with a loud shout in praising Jehovah over the laying of the foundation of the house of Jehovah.”—Ezra 3:11.
4. How did Jehovah rouse the Israelites to do the work of temple building, and what promise did he make about peace?
4 After that happy beginning, though, the Israelites were discouraged by opposers and stopped the work of temple building. Some years later, Jehovah raised up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to rouse the Israelites to complete the rebuilding work. How thrilling it must have been for them to hear Haggai say regarding the temple that would be built: “‘Greater will the glory of this later house become than that of the former,’ Jehovah of armies has said. ‘And in this place I shall give peace’”!—Haggai 2:9.
Jehovah Fulfills His Promises
5. What is noteworthy about the eighth chapter of Zechariah?
5 In the Bible book of Zechariah, we read of numerous inspired visions and prophecies that strengthened God’s people back in the sixth century B.C.E. These same prophecies continue to assure us of Jehovah’s support. They give us every reason to believe that Jehovah will give his people peace in our day too. For example, in the eighth chapter of the book that bears his name, the prophet Zechariah ten times utters the words: ‘This is what Jehovah has said.’ Each time, the expression introduces a divine pronouncement having to do with the peace of God’s people. Some of these promises were fulfilled back in Zechariah’s day. All have been fulfilled or are in the process of being fulfilled today.
“I Will Be Jealous for Zion”
6, 7. In what ways was Jehovah ‘jealous for Zion with great rage’?
6 The expression occurs first at Zechariah 8:2, where we read: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘I will be jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and with great rage I will be jealous for her.’” Jehovah’s promise to be jealous, to have great zeal, for his people meant that he would be vigilant in restoring their peace. The restoration of Israel to her land and the rebuilding of the temple were evidence of that zeal.
7 What, though, of those who had opposed Jehovah’s people? His zeal for his people would be equaled by his “great rage” upon these enemies. When faithful Jews worshiped at the rebuilt temple, they would be able to reflect on the fate of mighty Babylon, now fallen. They could also think of the utter failure of the enemies who had tried to prevent the rebuilding of the temple. (Ezra 4:1-6; 6:3) And they could thank Jehovah that he had fulfilled his promise. His zeal brought them a triumph!
“The City of Trueness”
8. In the days of Zechariah, how would Jerusalem become a city of trueness in contrast with earlier times?
8 A second time Zechariah writes: “This is what Jehovah has said.” What are Jehovah’s words on this occasion? “I will return to Zion and reside in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem will certainly be called the city of trueness, and the mountain of Jehovah of armies, the holy mountain.” (Zechariah 8:3) Before 607 B.C.E., Jerusalem was in no way a city of trueness. Her priests and prophets were corrupt, and her people were unfaithful. (Jeremiah 6:13; 7:29-34; 13:23-27) Now God’s people were rebuilding the temple, showing their commitment to pure worship. In spirit Jehovah dwelt once again in Jerusalem. The truths of pure worship were again spoken in her, so Jerusalem could be called “the city of trueness.” Her lofty location could be called “the mountain of Jehovah.”
9. What remarkable change in condition was experienced by “the Israel of God” in 1919?
9 While these two pronouncements were meaningful to ancient Israel, they also have much meaning for us as the 20th century draws to a close. Almost 80 years ago, during the first world war, the few thousand anointed ones who then represented “the Israel of God” went into spiritual captivity, just as ancient Israel had gone into captivity in Babylon. (Galatians 6:16) Prophetically, they were described as corpses lying in the street. Still, they had a sincere desire to worship Jehovah “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Hence, in 1919, Jehovah turned back their captivity, raising them from their spiritually dead condition. (Revelation 11:7-13) Jehovah thus answered with a resounding Yes Isaiah’s prophetic question: “Will a land be brought forth with labor pains in one day? Or will a nation be born at one time?” (Isaiah 66:8) In 1919, Jehovah’s people once again existed as a spiritual nation in their own “land,” or spiritual estate on earth.
10. Starting in 1919, what blessings have anointed Christians been enjoying in their “land”?
10 Safe in that land, anointed Christians served in Jehovah’s great spiritual temple. They were designated as “the faithful and discreet slave,” accepting the responsibility of caring for Jesus’ earthly belongings, a privilege that they still enjoy as the 20th century nears its conclusion. (Matthew 24:45-47) They learned well the lesson that Jehovah is “the very God of peace.”—1 Thessalonians 5:23.
11. How have religious leaders of Christendom shown themselves to be enemies of God’s people?
11 What, though, of the enemies of the Israel of God? Jehovah’s zeal for his people is matched by his rage against the opposers. During the first world war, the religious leaders of Christendom brought enormous pressure to bear as they tried—and failed—to stamp out this small group of truth-speaking Christians. During the second world war, Christendom’s ministers were united in only one thing: On both sides of the conflict, they urged governments to suppress Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even today, in many lands religious leaders are inciting governments to restrict or ban the Christian preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
12, 13. How is Jehovah’s rage expressed against Christendom?
12 This has not gone unnoticed by Jehovah. After the first world war, Christendom, along with the rest of Babylon the Great, experienced a fall. (Revelation 14:8) The reality of Christendom’s fall became public knowledge when, starting in 1922, a series of symbolic plagues were poured out, publicly exposing her spiritually dead condition and warning of her coming destruction. (Revelation 8:7–9:21) As evidence that the pouring out of these plagues continues, the talk “False Religion’s End Is Near” was delivered worldwide on April 23, 1995, followed by the distribution of hundreds of millions of copies of a special issue of Kingdom News.
13 Today, Christendom is in a pitiable state. Throughout the 20th century, her members have killed one another in vicious wars blessed by her priests and ministers. In some lands her influence is virtually nil. She is destined for destruction along with the rest of Babylon the Great.—Revelation 18:21.
Peace for Jehovah’s People
14. What prophetic word picture is given of a people at peace?
14 On the other hand, in this year 1996, Jehovah’s people enjoy abundant peace in their restored land, as described in Jehovah’s third pronouncement: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘There will yet sit old men and old women in the public squares of Jerusalem, each one also with his staff in his hand because of the abundance of his days. And the public squares of the city themselves will be filled with boys and girls playing in her public squares.’”—Zechariah 8:4, 5.
15. Despite the wars of the nations, what peace has been enjoyed by Jehovah’s servants?
15 This delightful word picture portrays something remarkable in this war-torn world—a people at peace. Since 1919, Isaiah’s prophetic words have been fulfilled: “‘Continuous peace there will be to the one that is far away and to the one that is near,’ Jehovah has said, ‘and I will heal him. But . . . there is no peace,’ my God has said, ‘for the wicked ones.’” (Isaiah 57:19-21) Of course, Jehovah’s people, while no part of the world, cannot avoid being affected by the tumult of the nations. (John 17:15, 16) In some lands, they endure severe difficulties, and a few have even been killed. Yet, real Christians have peace in two principal ways. First, they have “peace with God through [their] Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Second, they have peace among themselves. They cultivate “the wisdom from above,” which is “first of all chaste, then peaceable.” (James 3:17; Galatians 5:22-24) Moreover, they look forward to enjoying peace in the most complete sense when “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:11.
16, 17. (a) How have “old men and old women” as well as “boys and girls” strengthened Jehovah’s organization? (b) What demonstrates the peace of Jehovah’s people?
16 There are still “old men and old women” among Jehovah’s people, anointed ones who remember the early triumphs of Jehovah’s organization. Their faithfulness and endurance are greatly appreciated. Younger anointed ones took the lead during the fiery days of the 1930’s and World War II, as well as in the exciting years of growth that followed. Further, especially since 1935, the “great crowd” of “other sheep” has manifested itself. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) As anointed Christians have grown older and become fewer, the other sheep have taken up the preaching work and have extended it throughout the earth. In recent years other sheep have been flooding into the land of God’s people. Why, last year alone, 338,491 of them were baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah! Such new ones are very young indeed, spiritually speaking. Their freshness and enthusiasm are treasured as they swell the ranks of those who sing grateful praises “to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”—Revelation 7:10.
17 Today, ‘the public squares are filled with boys and girls,’ Witnesses with youthlike vigor. In the 1995 service year, reports were received from 232 lands and islands of the sea. But there is no international rivalry, no intertribal hatred, no inappropriate jealousy, between anointed and other sheep. All grow together spiritually, united in love. The worldwide brotherhood of Jehovah’s Witnesses is truly unique on the world scene.—Colossians 3:14; 1 Peter 2:17.
Too Difficult for Jehovah?
18, 19. In the years since 1919, how has Jehovah accomplished what may have seemed too difficult from a human standpoint?
18 Back in 1918 when the anointed remnant consisted of just a few thousand discouraged souls in spiritual captivity, no one could have foreseen the course that events would take. Nevertheless, Jehovah knew—as borne out by his fourth prophetic pronouncement: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Although it should seem too difficult in the eyes of the remaining ones of this people in those days, should it seem too difficult also in my eyes?’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies.”—Zechariah 8:6.
19 In 1919, Jehovah’s spirit revived his people for the work ahead. Still, it took faith to hold fast to the small organization of Jehovah’s worshipers. They were so few, and many things were not clear. However, little by little Jehovah strengthened them organizationally and equipped them to do the Christian work of preaching the good news and making disciples. (Isaiah 60:17, 19; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Gradually, he helped them to discern such vital issues as neutrality and universal sovereignty. Was it too difficult for Jehovah to accomplish his will by means of that small group of Witnesses? The answer is certainly no! This is borne out on pages 12 to 15 of this magazine, which set forth the chart of activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses for the 1995 service year.
“I Myself Shall Become Their God”
20. How extensive was the gathering of God’s people prophesied to be?
20 The fifth pronouncement shows further the happy condition of Jehovah’s Witnesses today: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Here I am saving my people from the land of the sunrise and from the land of the setting of the sun. And I shall certainly bring them in, and they must reside in the midst of Jerusalem; and they must become my people, and I myself shall become their God in trueness and in righteousness.’”—Zechariah 8:7, 8.
21. In what way has the abundant peace of Jehovah’s people been maintained and extended?
21 In 1996 we can say without hesitation that the good news has been preached around the world, from “the land of the sunrise” to “the land of the setting of the sun.” Disciples have been made of people of all nations, and they have seen the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” (Isaiah 54:13) We have peace because we are educated by Jehovah. To this end, literature has been published in over 300 languages. Last year alone, 21 additional languages were added. The Watchtower magazine is now published simultaneously in 111 languages, and Awake! in 54. National and international conventions provide a public demonstration of the peace of God’s people. Weekly meetings unite us and give us the encouragement we need to stay firm. (Hebrews 10:23-25) Yes, Jehovah is educating his people “in trueness and in righteousness.” He is giving his people peace. How blessed we are to share in that abundant peace!
Can You Explain?
□ In modern times, how has Jehovah been ‘jealous with a great rage’ for his people?
□ How do Jehovah’s people enjoy peace, even in war-torn lands?
□ In what way are ‘the public squares filled with boys and girls’?
□ What provisions have been made so that Jehovah’s people can be taught by him?
[Chart on page 12-15]
1995 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLDWIDE
(See bound volume)
[Picture on page 8, 9]
In the sixth century B.C.E., faithful Jews who rebuilt the temple learned that Jehovah was the only reliable source of peace