Jehovah Beautifies His People With Light
“Arise, O woman, shed forth light, for your light has come and upon you the very glory of Jehovah has shone forth.”—ISAIAH 60:1.
1, 2. (a) What is the condition of mankind? (b) Who is behind mankind’s darkness?
“OH, for an Isaiah or a Saint Paul!” Such was the plaintive cry of U.S. President Harry Truman back in the 1940’s. Why did he utter those words? Because he felt the need for moral leaders of the highest caliber in the world of his time. Mankind had just passed through the darkest period of the 20th century, the second world war. Even though the war was over, however, the world was not at peace. Darkness persisted. Indeed, 57 years after the end of that war, the world is still in darkness. If President Truman were alive today, doubtless he would still see the need for moral leaders of the caliber of Isaiah or the apostle Paul.
2 Whether President Truman knew it or not, the apostle Paul spoke of the darkness afflicting mankind, and he warned about it in his writings. For example, he warned fellow believers: “We have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) With these words Paul showed not only that he was aware of the spiritual darkness enveloping the world but also that he knew the true source—powerful demonic forces described as “world rulers.” Since powerful spirits are behind the world’s darkness, what can mere humans do to dispel it?
3. Despite the dark condition of mankind, what did Isaiah foretell for faithful ones?
3 Isaiah likewise spoke of the darkness afflicting mankind. (Isaiah 8:22; 59:9) However, looking forward to our day, he foretold under inspiration that even in these dark times, Jehovah would brighten the outlook of those who love light. Yes, although we do not have Paul or Isaiah with us in person, we do have their inspired writings to guide us. To see what a blessing that is for those who love Jehovah, let us consider the prophetic words of Isaiah found in the 60th chapter of his book.
A Prophetic Woman Sheds Forth Light
4, 5. (a) What does Jehovah command a woman to do, and what promise does he make? (b) What thrilling information does Isaiah chapter 60 contain?
4 The first words of Isaiah 60 are addressed to a woman in a very sad condition—in darkness, lying prostrate on the ground. Suddenly, light pierces the gloom, and Jehovah calls out: “Arise, O woman, shed forth light, for your light has come and upon you the very glory of Jehovah has shone forth.” (Isaiah 60:1) The time has come for the woman to stand up and reflect God’s light, his glory. Why? We see the answer in the following verse: “Look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen.” (Isaiah 60:2) When the woman obeys Jehovah’s command, she is assured of a wonderful result. Jehovah says: “Nations will certainly go to your light, and kings to the brightness of your shining forth.”—Isaiah 60:3.
5 The thrilling words in these three verses are both an introduction to and a summary of what the rest of Isaiah chapter 60 contains. It foretells the experiences of a prophetic woman and explains how we can dwell in Jehovah’s light despite the darkness that has settled on mankind. What, though, do the symbols in these three introductory verses stand for?
6. Who is the woman of Isaiah chapter 60, and who represent her on earth?
6 The woman of Isaiah 60:1-3 is Zion, Jehovah’s celestial organization of spirit creatures. Today, Zion is represented on earth by the remaining ones of “the Israel of God,” the international congregation of spirit-anointed Christians, who have the hope of ruling with Christ in heaven. (Galatians 6:16) This spiritual nation comes to have a total of 144,000 members, and the modern fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 60 centers on those alive on earth during “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1; Revelation 14:1) The prophecy also has much to say about the companions of these anointed Christians, the “great crowd” of “other sheep.”—Revelation 7:9; John 10:16.
7. What was the condition of Zion in 1918, and how had this been prophesied?
7 Was there a time when “the Israel of God” was lying in darkness, as foreshadowed by that prophetic woman? Yes, this happened more than 80 years ago. During the first world war, anointed Christians had struggled hard to keep the witness work going. But in 1918, the final year of the war, the organized preaching work virtually stopped. Joseph F. Rutherford, who was overseeing the worldwide preaching work, and other prominent Christians were given long prison sentences on trumped-up charges. In the book of Revelation, anointed Christians then on earth were prophetically described as corpses lying “on the broad way of the great city which is in a spiritual sense called Sodom and Egypt.” (Revelation 11:8) That was truly a dark time for Zion, as represented by her anointed children on earth!
8. What dramatic change occurred in 1919, with what result?
8 However, the year 1919 saw a dramatic change. Jehovah shed light upon Zion! Surviving ones of the Israel of God stood up in order to reflect God’s light, fearlessly taking up once again the proclamation of the good news. (Matthew 5:14-16) Thanks to the reborn zeal of these Christians, others were drawn to Jehovah’s light. To start with, the newcomers were anointed as additional members of the Israel of God. They are called kings at Isaiah 60:3, since they are to be coheirs with Christ in God’s heavenly Kingdom. (Revelation 20:6) Later, a great crowd of other sheep began to be drawn to Jehovah’s light. These are the “nations” mentioned in the prophecy.
The Woman’s Children Come Home!
9, 10. (a) What remarkable sight greeted the woman, and what did this prefigure? (b) What reason has Zion had for joy?
9 Now, Jehovah begins to flesh out, as it were, the information outlined at Isaiah 60:1-3. He gives the woman another command. Listen to what he says: “Raise your eyes all around and see!” The woman obeys, and what a heartwarming sight greets her! Her children are coming home. The scripture goes on to say: “They have all of them been collected together; they have come to you. From far away your own sons keep coming, and your daughters who will be taken care of on the flank.” (Isaiah 60:4) The worldwide Kingdom proclamation that began in 1919 drew in thousands of new ones to Jehovah’s service. These too became “sons” and “daughters” of Zion, anointed members of the Israel of God. Thus, Jehovah has beautified Zion by bringing the final ones of the 144,000 to the light.
10 Can you imagine Zion’s joy at having her children with her? Yet, Jehovah gives Zion additional reasons for joy. We read: “At that time you will see and certainly become radiant, and your heart will actually quiver and expand, because to you the wealthiness of the sea will direct itself; the very resources of the nations will come to you.” (Isaiah 60:5) In harmony with those prophetic words, since the 1930’s, multitudes of Christians whose hope is to live on earth forever have flocked to Zion. They have come out of “the sea” of mankind alienated from God and represent the resources of the nations. They are “the desirable things of all the nations.” (Haggai 2:7; Isaiah 57:20) Notice, too, that these “desirable things” do not go off to serve Jehovah each one in his own way. No, they add to the beauty of Zion by coming to worship in association with their anointed brothers, becoming “one flock” with them under “one shepherd.”—John 10:16.
Merchants, Shepherds, and Traders Come to Zion
11, 12. Describe the crowds seen moving toward Zion.
11 The result of this foretold ingathering is an outstanding increase in the number of praisers of Jehovah. This is foretold in the following words of the prophecy. Imagine that you are standing with the prophetic woman on Mount Zion. You look to the east, and what do you see? “The heaving mass of camels itself will cover you, the young male camels of Midian and of Ephah. All those from Sheba—they will come. Gold and frankincense they will carry. And the praises of Jehovah they will announce.” (Isaiah 60:6) Crowds of merchants guide their camel caravans along the trails leading to Jerusalem. Why, the camels are like a flood covering the land! The traders bear valuable gifts, “gold and frankincense.” And these merchants come to God’s light in order to laud him publicly, ‘to announce the praises of Jehovah.’
12 Merchants are not the only ones on the move. Shepherds too are flocking to Zion. The prophecy goes on to say: “All the flocks of Kedar—they will be collected together to you. The rams of Nebaioth—they will minister to you.” (Isaiah 60:7a) Pastoral tribes are coming to the holy city to offer the best from their flocks to Jehovah. They even offer themselves to minister to Zion! How does Jehovah receive these foreigners? God himself answers: “With approval they will come up upon my altar, and I shall beautify my own house of beauty.” (Isaiah 60:7b) Jehovah graciously accepts the offerings and the service of these foreigners. Their presence beautifies his temple.
13, 14. What is seen coming from the west?
13 Now turn your head and scan the western horizon. What do you see? In the far distance, there is what looks like a white cloud spread over the surface of the sea. Jehovah asks the question that is on your mind: “Who are these that come flying just like a cloud, and like doves to their birdhouse holes?” (Isaiah 60:8) Jehovah answers his own question: “In me the islands themselves will keep hoping, the ships of Tarshish also as at the first, in order to bring your sons from far away, their silver and their gold being with them, to the name of Jehovah your God and to the Holy One of Israel, for he will have beautified you.”—Isaiah 60:9.
14 Can you visualize the scene? That white cloud has come closer and now looks like a cluster of dots far off to the west. It looks like a flock of birds skimming the waves. But as they come closer still, you see that they are ships with their sails unfurled to catch the wind. So many vessels are sailing toward Jerusalem that they resemble a flock of doves. From distant ports, the fleet is traveling at top speed, bringing believers to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah.
Jehovah’s Organization Expands
15. (a) What increase do the words of Isaiah 60:4-9 foretell? (b) Genuine Christians manifest what spirit?
15 What a vivid prophetic picture verses 4 to 9 paint of the worldwide expansion that has taken place since 1919! Why did Jehovah bless Zion with such increase? Because since 1919, the Israel of God has obediently and consistently shed forth Jehovah’s light. Did you notice, though, that according to verse 7, the new arrivals “come up upon [God’s] altar”? An altar is where sacrifices are made, and this feature of the prophecy reminds us that Jehovah’s service involves sacrifice. The apostle Paul wrote: “I entreat you . . . to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” (Romans 12:1) In harmony with Paul’s words, genuine Christians are not satisfied with merely attending religious services once a week. They give of their time, energy, and resources to promote pure worship. Does not the presence of such devoted worshipers beautify Jehovah’s house? Isaiah’s prophecy said that it would. And we can be sure that such zealous worshipers are, in turn, beautiful in Jehovah’s eyes.
16. Who contributed to the rebuilding work in ancient times, and who have done so in modern times?
16 The newcomers want to work. The prophecy goes on to say: “Foreigners will actually build your walls, and their own kings will minister to you.” (Isaiah 60:10) In the first fulfillment of these words back in the days of the return from Babylonian exile, kings and others from the nations did actually help in the rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. (Ezra 3:7; Nehemiah 3:26) In the modern fulfillment, the great crowd has supported the anointed remnant in building up true worship. They have helped to build up Christian congregations and thus strengthen the citylike “walls” of Jehovah’s organization. They also share in a literal building work—the construction of Kingdom Halls, Assembly Halls, and Bethel facilities. In all these ways, they support their anointed brothers in caring for the needs of Jehovah’s expanding organization!
17. What is one way that Jehovah beautifies his people?
17 How encouraging are the final words of Isaiah 60:10! Jehovah says: “In my indignation I shall have struck you, but in my goodwill I shall certainly have mercy upon you.” Yes, back in 1918/19, Jehovah did discipline his people. But that is in the past. Now is the time for Jehovah to express mercy to his anointed servants and their other sheep companions. The evidence that this is so is the extraordinary increase with which he has blessed them, ‘beautifying them,’ as it were.
18, 19. (a) What promise does Jehovah make as to new ones coming into his organization? (b) What do the remaining verses of Isaiah chapter 60 tell us?
18 Each year, hundreds of thousands of additional “foreigners” associate with Jehovah’s organization, and the way will remain open for many more to follow them. Jehovah says to Zion: “Your gates will actually be kept open constantly; they will not be closed even by day or by night, in order to bring to you the resources of the nations, and their kings will be taking the lead.” (Isaiah 60:11) Some opposers try to close those “gates,” but we know that they cannot succeed. Jehovah himself has said that one way or another, the gates will stay open. The increase will continue.
19 There are still other ways that Jehovah has blessed his people, making them beautiful, in these last days. The remaining verses of Isaiah 60 prophetically reveal what those ways are.
Can You Explain?
• Who is God’s “woman,” and who represent her on earth?
• When were the children of Zion lying prostrate, and when and how did they “arise”?
• Using different symbols, how did Jehovah foretell today’s increase in Kingdom preachers?
• In what ways has Jehovah caused his light to shine on his people?
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Jehovah’s “woman” is commanded to arise
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The fleet of ships looks like doves on the horizon