Identifying the Right Kind of Messenger
“I am . . . the One making the word of his servant come true, and the One that carries out completely the counsel of his own messengers.”—ISAIAH 44:25, 26.
1. How does Jehovah identify the right kind of messengers, and how does he expose the false?
JEHOVAH GOD is the Grand Identifier of his true messengers. He identifies them by making the messages he delivers through them come true. Jehovah is also the Great Exposer of false messengers. How does he expose them? He frustrates their signs and predictions. In this way he shows that they are self-appointed prognosticators, whose messages really spring from their own false reasoning—yes, their foolish, fleshly thinking!
2. What conflict between messengers occurred in Israelite times?
2 Both Isaiah and Ezekiel claimed to be messengers of Jehovah God. Were they? Let us see. Isaiah prophesied in Jerusalem from about 778 B.C.E. to sometime after 732 B.C.E. Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 617 B.C.E. He prophesied to his Jewish brothers there. Both prophets boldly announced that Jerusalem would be destroyed. Other prophets said that God would not let this happen. Who proved to be the right kind of messengers?
Jehovah Exposes False Prophets
3, 4. (a) What two opposing messages were delivered to Israelites in Babylon, and how did Jehovah expose a false messenger? (b) What did Jehovah say would happen to false prophets?
3 Ezekiel, while in Babylon, was given a vision of what was going on in Jerusalem’s temple. At the entrance of its eastern gate were 25 men. Among them were two princes, Jaazaniah and Pelatiah. How did Jehovah view them? Ezekiel 11:2, 3 answers: “Son of man, these are the men that are scheming hurtfulness and advising bad counsel against this city; that are saying, ‘Is not the building of houses close at hand?’” These presumptuous peace messengers were saying, ‘There is no danger to Jerusalem. Why, soon we are going to build more houses in her!’ So God told Ezekiel to counterprophesy against these lying prophets. In verse 13 of Eze chapter 11, Ezekiel tells us what happened to one of them: “It came about that as soon as I prophesied Pelatiah the son of Benaiah himself died.” This probably happened because Pelatiah was the most prominent and influential prince and the foremost idolater. His sudden death proved that he was a false prophet!
4 Jehovah’s execution of Pelatiah did not stop the other false prophets from lying in God’s name. These deceivers continued in their mad course of predicting things against God’s will. So Jehovah God told Ezekiel: “Woe to the stupid prophets, who are walking after their own spirit, when there is nothing that they have seen!” Like Pelatiah, they would be “no more” for defiantly visioning for Jerusalem “a vision of peace, when there is no peace.”—Ezekiel 13:3, 15, 16.
5, 6. In spite of all the false messengers, how was Isaiah vindicated as a true prophet?
5 As for Isaiah, all his divine messages about Jerusalem came true. In the summer of 607 B.C.E., the Babylonians destroyed the city and took a Jewish remnant back to Babylon as captives. (2 Chronicles 36:15-21; Ezekiel 22:28; Daniel 9:2) Did these calamities stop the false prophets from bombarding God’s people with vain babblings? No, those lying messengers kept at it!
6 As if this were not enough, Israelite exiles were also exposed to Babylon’s boastful fortune-tellers, diviners, and astrologers. However, Jehovah proved all these false messengers to be frustrated fools, having things backward. In time he showed that Ezekiel was his true messenger, as was Isaiah. Jehovah fulfilled all the words that he spoke through them, just as he had promised: “I am frustrating the signs of the empty talkers, and I am the One that makes diviners themselves act crazily; the One turning wise men backwards, and the One that turns even their knowledge into foolishness; the One making the word of his servant come true, and the One that carries out completely the counsel of his own messengers.”—Isaiah 44:25, 26.
Startling Messages About Babylon and Jerusalem
7, 8. What inspired message did Isaiah have for Babylon, and what did his words mean?
7 Judah and Jerusalem were to be desolated, without human inhabitant, for 70 years. However, Jehovah declared through Isaiah and Ezekiel that the city would be rebuilt and the land inhabited at the precise time that he had foretold! This was an amazing prediction. Why? Because Babylon had the reputation of never freeing her prisoners. (Isaiah 14:4, 15-17) So who could possibly liberate these captives? Who could overthrow mighty Babylon, with her colossal walls and river-defense system? Almighty Jehovah could! And he said that he would: “I am . . . the One saying to the watery deep [that is, the watery defense of the city], ‘Be evaporated; and all your rivers I shall dry up’; the One saying of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and all that I delight in he will completely carry out’; even in my saying of Jerusalem, ‘She will be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘You will have your foundation laid.’”—Isaiah 44:25, 27, 28.
8 Think of that! The Euphrates River, a truly formidable barrier to men, was to Jehovah like a drop of water on a red-hot surface. Poof, the barrier would evaporate! Babylon would fall. Although it was about 150 years before the birth of Cyrus the Persian, Jehovah had Isaiah foretell this king’s capture of Babylon and the liberating of the Jewish captives by his authorizing their return to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple.
9. Whom did Jehovah name as his agent for the punishing of Babylon?
9 We find this prophecy at Isaiah 45:1-3: “This is what Jehovah has said to his anointed one, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold of, to subdue before him nations, . . . to open before him the two-leaved doors, so that even the gates will not be shut: ‘Before you I myself shall go, and the swells of land I shall straighten out. The copper doors I shall break in pieces, and the iron bars I shall cut down. And I will give you the treasures in the darkness and the hidden treasures in the concealment places, in order that you may know that I am Jehovah, the One calling you by your name.’”
10. In what way was Cyrus “anointed,” and how could Jehovah speak to him more than a hundred years before his birth?
10 Notice that Jehovah speaks to Cyrus as if he is already alive. This harmonizes with Paul’s statement that Jehovah “calls the things that are not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17) Also, God identifies Cyrus as “his anointed one.” Why did he do that? After all, Jehovah’s high priest never poured holy anointing oil on Cyrus’ head. True, but this is a prophetic anointing. It indicates an induction into a special office. So God could speak of his advance appointment of Cyrus as an anointing.—Compare 1 Kings 19:15-17; 2 Kings 8:13.
God Fulfills the Words of His Messengers
11. Why did the inhabitants of Babylon feel secure?
11 At the time Cyrus moved against Babylon, its citizens felt very safe and secure. Their city was surrounded by a deep and broad protective moat, formed by the Euphrates River. Where the river ran through the city, there was a continuous quay along the east bank of the river. To separate it from the city, Nebuchadnezzar built what he called “a great wall, which like a mountain cannot be moved . . . Its head [he] raised mountain high.”* This wall had gates with huge copper doors. To enter them, one had to climb up the slope from the river’s edge. No wonder Babylon’s prisoners despaired of ever being set free!
12, 13. How did Jehovah’s words through his messenger Isaiah come true when Babylon fell to Cyrus?
12 But not those Jewish captives who had faith in Jehovah! They had a bright hope. Through his prophets, God had promised to liberate them. How did God fulfill his promise? Cyrus ordered his armies to divert the Euphrates River at a point several miles north of Babylon. Thus, the city’s chief defense was turned into a relatively dry riverbed. On the crucial night, carousing revelers in Babylon carelessly left open the two-leaved doors along the Euphrates waterfront. Jehovah did not literally break the copper doors in pieces; nor did he cut down the iron bars that closed them, but his marvelous maneuvering to keep them open and unbarred had the same effect. Babylon’s walls were useless. Cyrus’ troops did not have to scale them to get inside. Jehovah went before Cyrus, smoothing out “the swells of land,” yes, all obstacles. Isaiah was proved to be God’s true messenger.
13 When Cyrus had complete control of the city, all its treasures fell into his hands, including those hidden in dark, concealed rooms. Why did Jehovah God do this for Cyrus? In order that he would know that Jehovah, ‘the One calling him by his name,’ is the God of true prophecy and the Sovereign Lord of the universe. He would know that God had arranged for him to come to power to liberate His people, Israel.
14, 15. How do we know that Cyrus owed his victory over Babylon to Jehovah?
14 Listen to Jehovah’s words to Cyrus: “For the sake of my servant Jacob and of Israel my chosen one, I even proceeded to call you by your name; I proceeded to give you a name of honor, although you did not know me. I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. With the exception of me there is no God. I shall closely gird you, although you have not known me, in order that people may know from the rising of the sun and from its setting that there is none besides me. I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. Forming light and creating darkness, making peace [that is, for his exiled people] and creating calamity [for Babylon], I, Jehovah, am doing all these things.”—Isaiah 45:4-7.
15 Cyrus owed his conquest of Babylon to Jehovah, for He it was who had strengthened him to carry out His delight against that wicked city and free His captive people. In doing this, God called upon his heavens to shower down righteous influences or forces. He called upon his earth to open up and produce righteous events and salvation for his exiled people. And his figurative heavens and earth responded to this command. (Isaiah 45:8) More than a hundred years after his death, Isaiah was shown to be Jehovah’s true messenger!
The Messenger’s Good News for Zion!
16. What good news could be proclaimed in the desolated city of Jerusalem when Babylon went down in defeat?
16 But there is more. Isaiah 52:7 tells of good news for Jerusalem: “How comely upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news, the one publishing peace, the one bringing good news of something better, the one publishing salvation, the one saying to Zion: ‘Your God has become king!’” Imagine how thrilling it was to see a messenger approaching Jerusalem from the mountains! He must have news. What is it? It is exciting news for Zion. News of peace, yes, news of God’s goodwill. Jerusalem and her temple are to be rebuilt! And the messenger proclaims with triumphant enthusiasm: “Your God has become king!”
17, 18. How did Cyrus’ defeat of Babylon affect Jehovah’s own name?
17 When Jehovah allowed the Babylonians to overturn his typical throne on which the kings of David’s line sat, it might have seemed that He was no longer King. Marduk, Babylon’s chief god, appeared to be king instead. However, when Zion’s God overthrew Babylon, he demonstrated his universal sovereignty—that he was the greatest King. And to underscore this fact, Jerusalem, “the city of the great King,” was to be reestablished, along with its temple. (Matthew 5:35) As for the messenger who brought such good news, although his feet were dusty, soiled, and bruised, in the eyes of the lovers of Zion and her God, they looked, oh, so comely!
18 In a prophetic sense, Babylon’s fall meant that God’s kingdom was established and the bearer of good news was a proclaimer of that fact. Further, this ancient courier, foretold through Isaiah, prefigured a messenger of grander good news—grander because of its sublime content and its Kingdom theme, with marvelous implications for all people of faith.
19. What message about the land of Israel did Jehovah give through Ezekiel?
19 Ezekiel too was given glowing prophecies of restoration. He prophesied: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘. . . I will also cause the cities to be inhabited, and the devastated places must be rebuilt. And people will certainly say: “That land yonder which was laid desolate has become like the garden of Eden.”’”—Ezekiel 36:33, 35.
20. What cheerful exhortation did Isaiah prophetically give to Jerusalem?
20 In Babylonian captivity, God’s people had been mourning over Zion. (Psalm 137:1) Now, they could rejoice. Isaiah exhorted: “Become cheerful, cry out joyfully in unison, you devastated places of Jerusalem, for Jehovah has comforted his people; he has repurchased Jerusalem. Jehovah has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth must see the salvation of our God.”—Isaiah 52:9, 10.
21. How were the words of Isaiah 52:9, 10 fulfilled following the defeat of Babylon?
21 Yes, Jehovah’s chosen people had great reason for joy. They were now going to reoccupy those once desolate places, making them become like the garden of Eden. Jehovah had “bared his holy arm” for them. He rolled up his sleeve, so to speak, to work at bringing them back to their beloved homeland. This was not some minor, inconspicuous incident in history. No, all people living then saw God’s ‘bared arm’ exerting power in human affairs in order to bring about the astounding salvation of a nation. They were given unimpeachable proof that Isaiah and Ezekiel were Jehovah’s true messengers. No one could doubt that Zion’s God was the only living and true God in all the earth. At Isaiah 35:2, we read: “There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.” Those who accepted this proof of Jehovah’s Godship turned to worshiping him.
22. (a) For what can we today be thankful? (b) Why should we be especially thankful that Jehovah exposes false messengers?
22 How thankful we should be that Jehovah identifies his true messengers! He is indeed “the One making the word of his servant come true, and the One that carries out completely the counsel of his own messengers.” (Isaiah 44:26) The restoration prophecies he gave Isaiah and Ezekiel magnify his great love, undeserved kindness, and mercy toward his servants. Surely, Jehovah deserves all our praise for this! And we today should be especially thankful that he exposes false messengers. This is because there are many of them now on the world’s scene. Their grandiose messages ignore Jehovah’s announced purposes. The next article will help us identify those false messengers.
The Monuments and the Old Testament, by Ira Maurice Price, 1925.
Can You Explain?
□ How does Jehovah identify his true messengers?
□ Through Isaiah, whom did Jehovah name as his agent for defeating Babylon?
□ How were Isaiah’s prophecies describing the defeat of Babylon fulfilled?
□ What good result did the defeat of Babylon have on Jehovah’s name?
[Picture on page 9]
Babylon seemed impregnable to the nations of Ezekiel’s day