“Love Truth and Peace”!
“The word of Jehovah of armies continued to occur to me, saying: ‘. . . Love truth and peace.’”—ZECHARIAH 8:18, 19.
1, 2. (a) What is mankind’s record as far as peace is concerned? (b) Why will this present world never see real peace?
“THE world has never had peace. Somewhere—and often in many places at once—there has always been war.” So said Professor Milton Mayer of the University of Massachusetts, U.S.A. What a sad commentary on humanity! True, men have wanted peace. Politicians have tried all kinds of ways to maintain it, from the Pax Romana of Roman times to the policy of “Mutually Assured Destruction” during the Cold War. Ultimately, though, all their efforts failed. As Isaiah expressed it many centuries ago, ‘the very messengers of peace have wept bitterly.’ (Isaiah 33:7) Why is this?
2 It is because a lasting peace has to spring from an absence of hatred and greed; it must be grounded in truth. Peace cannot be based on lies. That is why Jehovah when promising restoration and peace for ancient Israel said: “Here I am extending to her peace just like a river and the glory of nations just like a flooding torrent.” (Isaiah 66:12) The god of this system of things, Satan the Devil, is “a manslayer,” a murderer, and “a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:4) How can a world with such a god ever have peace?
3. What remarkable gift has Jehovah given his people, despite their living in a troubled world?
3 Remarkably, though, Jehovah gives peace to his people even while they live in Satan’s war-torn world. (John 17:16) In the sixth century B.C.E., he fulfilled his promise through Jeremiah and gave “peace and truth” to his special nation when he restored them to their homeland. (Jeremiah 33:6) And in these last days, he has given “peace and truth” to his people in their “land,” or earthly spiritual estate, even though they have lived through the worst time of trouble this world has seen up to now. (Isaiah 66:8; Matthew 24:7-13; Revelation 6:1-8) As we continue our discussion of Zechariah chapter 8, we will gain a deeper appreciation of this God-given peace and truth and see what we have to do to preserve our share in it.
‘Let Your Hands Be Strong’
4. How did Zechariah encourage Israel to act if they were to experience peace?
4 For the sixth time in Zechariah chapter 8, we hear a thrilling pronouncement from Jehovah: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Let the hands of you people be strong, you who are hearing in these days these words from the mouth of the prophets, on the day on which the foundation of the house of Jehovah of armies was laid, for the temple to be built. For before those days there were no wages for mankind made to exist; and as for the wages of domestic animals, there was no such thing; and to the one going out and to the one coming in there was no peace because of the adversary, as I kept thrusting all mankind against one another.’”—Zechariah 8:9, 10.
5, 6. (a) Because of the Israelites’ discouragement, what was the situation in Israel? (b) What change did Jehovah promise Israel if she put his worship first?
5 Zechariah spoke these words while the temple was being rebuilt in Jerusalem. Previously, the Israelites who had returned from Babylon became discouraged and ceased the work of temple building. Because they turned their attention to their own comfort, they had no blessing and no peace from Jehovah. Even though they cultivated their lands and cared for their vineyards, they did not prosper. (Haggai 1:3-6) It was as if they were working for “no wages.”
6 Now that the temple was being rebuilt, Zechariah encouraged the Jews to “be strong,” courageously to put Jehovah’s worship first. What would happen if they did so? “‘Now I shall not be as in the former days to the remaining ones of this people,’ is the utterance of Jehovah of armies. ‘For there will be the seed of peace; the vine itself will give its fruitage, and the earth itself will give its yield, and the heavens themselves will give their dew; and I shall certainly cause the remaining ones of this people to inherit all these things. And it must occur that just as you became a malediction among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I shall save you, and you must become a blessing. Do not be afraid. May your hands be strong.’” (Zechariah 8:11-13) If Israel would act with determination, she would prosper. Earlier, when the nations wished to cite an example of malediction, they could point to Israel. Now Israel would be an example of a blessing. What an excellent reason to ‘let their hands be strong’!
7. (a) What thrilling changes have Jehovah’s people experienced, culminating in the 1995 service year? (b) Looking at the annual report, what countries do you see that have a remarkable record of publishers, pioneers, average hours?
7 What of today? Well, in the years before 1919, Jehovah’s people were somewhat lacking in zeal. They did not take a fully neutral stand in the first world war, and they had the tendency to follow a man rather than their King, Jesus Christ. As a result, some were discouraged by opposition from inside and outside the organization. Then, in 1919, with Jehovah’s help they let their hands be strong. (Zechariah 4:6) Jehovah gave them peace, and they prospered mightily. This is seen in their record of the last 75 years, culminating in the 1995 service year. As a people, Jehovah’s Witnesses shun nationalism, tribalism, prejudice, and all other sources of hatred. (1 John 3:14-18) They serve Jehovah with genuine zeal in his spiritual temple. (Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 7:15) Last year alone, they spent over a billion hours talking to others about their heavenly Father! Each month, they conducted 4,865,060 Bible studies. An average of 663,521 shared in pioneer service each month. When ministers in Christendom want to give an example of a people who are truly enthusiastic in their worship, they sometimes point to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
8. How can each individual Christian benefit from “the seed of peace”?
8 Because of their zeal, Jehovah gives his people “the seed of peace.” Each individual who cultivates that seed will see peace grow in his heart and in his life. Every believing Christian who pursues peace with Jehovah and with fellow Christians shares in the truth and peace of Jehovah’s name people. (1 Peter 3:11; compare James 3:18.) Is that not wonderful?
“Do Not Be Afraid”
9. What change in his dealings with his people did Jehovah promise?
9 Now we read a seventh pronouncement from Jehovah. What is it? “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Just as I had in mind to do what was calamitous to you people because of your forefathers’ making me indignant,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘and I felt no regret, so I will again have in mind in these days to deal well with Jerusalem and with the house of Judah. Do not be afraid.’”—Zechariah 8:14, 15.
10. What record of Jehovah’s Witnesses shows that they have not been afraid?
10 Even though Jehovah’s people were scattered in a spiritual sense during the first world war, in their hearts they wanted to do what was right. Hence, Jehovah, after administering some discipline, changed his way of dealing with them. (Malachi 3:2-4) Today, we look back and thank him fervently for what he has done. True, we have been “objects of hatred by all the nations.” (Matthew 24:9) Many have been imprisoned, and some have even died for their faith. We often face apathy or hostility. But we are not afraid. We know that Jehovah is stronger than any opposition, visible or invisible. (Isaiah 40:15; Ephesians 6:10-13) We will not cease to heed the words: “Hope in Jehovah; be courageous and let your heart be strong.”—Psalm 27:14.
“Speak Truthfully With One Another”
11, 12. What should we individually bear in mind if we want to share fully in the blessings Jehovah gives to his people?
11 To share fully in the blessings from Jehovah, there are things we should remember. Zechariah says: “‘These are the things that you people should do: Speak truthfully with one another. With truth and the judgment of peace do your judging in your gates. And calamity to one another do not you scheme up in your hearts, and do not love any false oath; for these are all things that I have hated,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Zechariah 8:16, 17.
12 Jehovah urges us to speak the truth. (Ephesians 4:15, 25) He does not hear the prayers of those who scheme harmful things, hide the truth for personal gain, or utter false oaths. (Proverbs 28:9) Since he hates apostasy, he wants us to cling to Bible truth. (Psalm 25:5; 2 John 9-11) Further, like the older men at the city gates in Israel, elders handling judicial cases should base their counsel and decisions on Bible truth, not on personal opinion. (John 17:17) Jehovah wants them to seek a “judgment of peace,” trying, as Christian shepherds, to restore peace between contending parties and helping repentant sinners regain peace with God. (James 5:14, 15; Jude 23) At the same time, they preserve the peace of the congregation, courageously expelling those who disturb that peace by willfully persisting in wrongdoing.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
“An Exultation and a Rejoicing”
13. (a) What change regarding fasting did Zechariah prophesy? (b) What fasting was observed in Israel?
13 Now, we hear an eighth solemn pronouncement: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth month, and the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month will become for the house of Judah an exultation and a rejoicing and good festal seasons. So love truth and peace.’” (Zechariah 8:19) Under the Mosaic Law, the Israelites fasted on the Day of Atonement to express sorrow for their sins. (Leviticus 16:29-31) The four fasts mentioned by Zechariah were apparently observed to mourn events in connection with the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem. (2 Kings 25:1-4, 8, 9, 22-26) Now, however, the temple was being rebuilt and Jerusalem repopulated. Mourning was being changed into rejoicing, and the fasts could become festal seasons.
14, 15. (a) How was the Memorial celebration a great cause for rejoicing, and what should this remind us of? (b) As seen in the annual report, what lands had outstanding attendances at the Memorial?
14 Today, we do not observe the fasts mentioned by Zechariah or the fasting prescribed in the Law. Since Jesus offered his life for our sins, we are enjoying the blessings of a greater Day of Atonement. Our sins are covered, not just in a token way, but completely. (Hebrews 9:6-14) Following the command of the heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, we observe the Memorial of his death as the only solemn celebration on the Christian calendar. (Luke 22:19, 20) Do we not experience “an exultation and a rejoicing” as we gather together each year for that celebration?
15 Last year, 13,147,201 came together to celebrate the Memorial, 858,284 more than in 1994. What a multitude! Picture the rejoicing in the 78,620 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses as unusually large numbers flocked into their Kingdom Halls for the celebration. Surely, all present were moved to “love truth and peace” as they remembered the death of the One who is “the way and the truth and the life” and who now reigns as Jehovah’s great “Prince of Peace”! (John 14:6; Isaiah 9:6) That celebration had special meaning for those who observed it in lands racked by turmoil and war. Some of our brothers witnessed indescribable horrors during 1995. Still, ‘the peace of God that excels all thought guarded their hearts and their mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.’—Philippians 4:7.
‘Let Us Soften the Face of Jehovah’
16, 17. How can people of the nations “soften the face of Jehovah”?
16 Where, though, did all those millions who attended the Memorial come from? The ninth utterance of Jehovah explains: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘It will yet be that peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will come; and the inhabitants of one city will certainly go to those of another, saying: “Let us earnestly go to soften the face of Jehovah and to seek Jehovah of armies. I myself will go also.” And many peoples and mighty nations will actually come to seek Jehovah of armies in Jerusalem and to soften the face of Jehovah.’”—Zechariah 8:20-22.
17 People who attended the Memorial wanted to “seek Jehovah of armies.” Many of these were his dedicated, baptized servants. Millions of others in attendance had not yet reached that stage. In some lands the Memorial attendance was four or five times the number of Kingdom publishers. These many interested ones need help to continue to make progress. Let us teach them to exult in the knowledge that Jesus died for our sins and is now ruling in God’s Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8; Revelation 11:15) And let us encourage them to dedicate themselves to Jehovah God and submit to his appointed King. In this way they will “soften the face of Jehovah.”—Psalm 116:18, 19; Philippians 2:12, 13.
“Ten Men Out Of All the Languages of the Nations”
18, 19. (a) In the fulfillment of Zechariah 8:23, who today is “a Jew”? (b) Who today are the “ten men” who “take hold of the skirt of a man who is a Jew”?
18 For the last time in the eighth chapter of Zechariah, we read: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said.” What is Jehovah’s final proclamation? “It will be in those days that ten men out of all the languages of the nations will take hold, yes, they will actually take hold of the skirt of a man who is a Jew, saying: ‘We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.’” (Zechariah 8:23) In Zechariah’s day, natural Israel was God’s chosen nation. In the first century, however, Israel rejected Jehovah’s Messiah. Hence, our God chose “a Jew”—a new Israel—as his special people, “the Israel of God” made up of spiritual Jews. (Galatians 6:16; John 1:11; Romans 2:28, 29) The final number of these was to be 144,000, chosen from among mankind to reign with Jesus in his heavenly Kingdom.—Revelation 14:1, 4.
19 Most of these 144,000 have already died faithful and have gone to their heavenly reward. (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; Revelation 6:9-11) A few remain on earth and these rejoice to see that the “ten men” who choose to go along with the “Jew” are indeed “a great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.”—Revelation 7:9; Isaiah 2:2, 3; 60:4-10, 22.
20, 21. As the end of this world draws closer, how may we stay at peace with Jehovah?
20 As the end of this world gets inexorably closer, Christendom is like Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day: “There was a hoping for peace, but no good came; and for a time of healing, and, look! terror!” (Jeremiah 14:19) That terror will reach a climax when the nations turn on false religion and bring it to a violent end. Shortly afterward, the nations themselves will experience destruction in God’s final war, Armageddon. (Matthew 24:29, 30; Revelation 16:14, 16; 17:16-18; 19:11-21) What a time of tumult that will be!
21 Through it all, Jehovah will protect those who love truth and cultivate “the seed of peace.” (Zechariah 8:12; Zephaniah 2:3) Let us, then, stay safe within the land of his people, zealously praising him publicly and helping as many as possible to “soften the face of Jehovah.” If we do so, we will always enjoy Jehovah’s peace. Yes, “Jehovah himself will give strength indeed to his people. Jehovah himself will bless his people with peace.”—Psalm 29:11.
Can You Explain?
□ How did God’s people ‘let their hands be strong’ in Zechariah’s day? Today?
□ How do we respond to persecution, hostility, and apathy?
□ What is involved in our ‘speaking truth with one another’?
□ How can a person “soften the face of Jehovah”?
□ What great cause for rejoicing is seen in the fulfillment of Zechariah 8:23?
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Last year, Jehovah’s Witnesses spent 1,150,353,444 hours talking to people about God’s Kingdom