Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Isaiah—II
ISAIAH is faithfully carrying out his commission as a prophet. The pronouncements he has uttered against the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel have already come true. Now he has further word about the future of Jerusalem.
The city of Jerusalem will be destroyed, and its inhabitants will be taken captive. The desolation, though, will not be permanent. After a time, true worship will be restored. This is the basic message of Isaiah 36:1–66:24.* We stand to benefit from considering what is stated in these chapters because many of the prophecies in this section are having their major, or final, fulfillment in our day or will be fulfilled in the near future. This part of the book of Isaiah also contains exciting prophecies concerning the Messiah.
“LOOK! DAYS ARE COMING”
In the 14th year of King Hezekiah’s reign (732 B.C.E.), the Assyrians invade Judah. Jehovah promises to defend Jerusalem. The threat of invasion ends when Jehovah’s angel single-handedly kills 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.
Hezekiah falls sick. Jehovah answers his prayer and heals him, adding 15 years to his life. When the king of Babylon sends emissaries to congratulate him, Hezekiah unwisely shows them all his treasures. Isaiah delivers Jehovah’s message to Hezekiah, saying: “Look! Days are coming, and all that is in your own house and that your forefathers have stored up down to this day will actually be carried to Babylon.” (Isaiah 39:5, 6) A little over 100 years later, the prophecy comes true.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
38:8—What were “the steps” on which the shadow was made to recede? Since sundials were in use both in Egypt and in Babylon by the eighth century B.C.E., these steps could refer to the degrees of a sundial that Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, might have acquired. Or there might have been a staircase inside the palace. A column alongside the stairs perhaps gradually cast a shadow on the steps, which could serve to measure time.
Lessons for Us:
36:2, 3, 22. Though dismissed from serving as a steward, Shebna was allowed to continue in the king’s service as a secretary to his replacement. (Isaiah 22:15, 19) If we are removed from a position of responsibility in Jehovah’s organization for some reason, should we not continue to serve God in whatever capacity he permits?
37:15-20; 38:2, 3. When Jerusalem was under the Assyrian threat, Hezekiah’s prime concern was that her overthrow would bring reproach on Jehovah’s name. Upon learning that his sickness would prove fatal, Hezekiah had concerns that went beyond himself. What weighed more heavily on his mind was what his dying heirless would mean for the Davidic line of kings. He was also concerned about who would lead the fight against the Assyrians. Like Hezekiah, we consider the sanctification of Jehovah’s name and the outworking of his purpose more important than our own salvation.
38:9-20. This song of Hezekiah teaches us that nothing is more important in life than to be able to praise Jehovah.
“SHE WILL BE REBUILT”
Immediately after foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem and the resulting captivity in Babylon, Isaiah prophesies about restoration. (Isaiah 40:1, 2) “She [Jerusalem] will be rebuilt,” states Isaiah 44:28. Idols of Babylonian gods will be carried away like “pieces of luggage.” (Isaiah 46:1) Babylon will be destroyed. All of this comes true two centuries later.
Jehovah will give his servant as “a light of the nations.” (Isaiah 49:6) The Babylonian “heavens,” or ruling class, will be “dispersed in fragments just like smoke,” and her subjects “will die like a mere gnat”; but the ‘captive daughter of Zion will loosen for herself the bands on her neck.’ (Isaiah 51:6; 52:2) To those who come to him and listen, Jehovah says: “I shall readily conclude with you people an indefinitely lasting covenant respecting the loving-kindnesses to David.” (Isaiah 55:3) Living in harmony with God’s righteous requirements leads to finding “exquisite delight in Jehovah.” (Isaiah 58:14) The errors of the people, on the other hand, ‘cause division between them and their God.’—Isaiah 59:2.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
40:27, 28—Why did Israel say: “My way has been concealed from Jehovah, and justice to me eludes my God”? Some Jews in Babylon may have felt that the injustices they were suffering were concealed from Jehovah or unseen by him. They were reminded that Babylon was not beyond the reach of the Creator of the earth, who does not tire out or grow weary.
43:18-21—Why were the returning exiles told ‘not to remember the former things’? This was not in the sense that they should forget Jehovah’s past deeds of deliverance. Rather, Jehovah wanted them to praise him on the basis of “something new” that they would experience themselves, such as their safe journey to Jerusalem, perhaps by a more direct desert route. “A great crowd” who come out of “the great tribulation” will also have new and personal reasons to glorify Jehovah.—Revelation 7:9, 14.
49:6—How is the Messiah “a light of the nations,” even though his earthly ministry was limited to the sons of Israel? This is so because of what happened after Jesus’ death. The Bible applies Isaiah 49:6 to his disciples. (Acts 13:46, 47) Today, anointed Christians, aided by a great crowd of worshippers, serve as “a light of the nations,” enlightening peoples “to the extremity of the earth.”—Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
53:10—In what sense did Jehovah take delight in crushing his Son? It must have pained Jehovah, the compassionate and empathetic God, to see his beloved Son suffer. Even so, He took delight in Jesus’ willing obedience and all that his suffering and death would accomplish.—Proverbs 27:11; Isaiah 63:9.
53:11—What is the knowledge by means of which the Messiah “will bring a righteous standing to many people”? This is the knowledge that Jesus acquired by coming to earth, becoming a man, and suffering unjustly as far as death. (Hebrews 4:15) He thus provided a ransom sacrifice, which was needed to help anointed Christians and the great crowd to acquire a righteous standing before God.—Romans 5:19; James 2:23, 25.
56:6—Who are “the foreigners,” and in what ways are they “laying hold of [Jehovah’s] covenant”? “The foreigners” are Jesus’ “other sheep.” (John 10:16) They lay hold of the new covenant in that they obey the laws related to that covenant, cooperate fully with the arrangements made through it, partake of the same spiritual food as anointed Christians do, and support them in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work.
Lessons for Us:
43:25. Jehovah wipes out transgressions for his own sake. Our being freed from bondage to sin and death and gaining life is secondary to the sanctification of Jehovah’s name.
44:18-20. Idolatry is a sign of corruption of the heart. Nothing should occupy the place of Jehovah in our heart.
46:10, 11. The ability to make ‘his own counsel stand,’ that is, to fulfill his purpose, is unmistakable proof of Jehovah’s Godship.
48:17, 18; 57:19-21. If we look to Jehovah for salvation, draw close to him, and pay attention to his commandments, our peace will be as plentiful as the waters of a flowing river and our righteous deeds as abundant as the waves of the sea. Those who pay no heed to God’s Word are like “the sea that is being tossed.” They have no peace.
52:5, 6. The Babylonians wrongly concluded that the true God was weak. They did not recognize Jehovah’s displeasure with his people as the reason for Israel’s enslavement. When calamity strikes others, we are wise not to jump to conclusions as to its cause.
52:7-9; 55:12, 13. We have at least three reasons to share joyfully in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. Our feet are comely to humble ones who hunger spiritually. We see Jehovah “eye into eye,” or have a close relationship with him. We also enjoy spiritual prosperity.
52:11, 12. To be qualified to carry “the utensils of Jehovah”—his provisions for sacred service—we must be spiritually and morally clean.
58:1-14. Hypocritical displays of devotion and righteousness are in vain. True worshippers should abound in genuine expressions of godly devotion and acts of brotherly love.—John 13:35; 2 Peter 3:11.
59:15b-19. Jehovah observes human affairs and intervenes in his own due time.
SHE “MUST BECOME A CROWN OF BEAUTY”
Pointing to the restoration of true worship in ancient times as well as in our day, Isaiah 60:1 states: “Arise, O woman, shed forth light, for your light has come and upon you the very glory of Jehovah has shone forth.” Zion “must become a crown of beauty in the hand of Jehovah.”—Isaiah 62:3.
Isaiah prays to Jehovah in behalf of his countrymen who will be repentant during their exile in Babylon. (Isaiah 63:15–64:12) After contrasting true servants with false, the prophet declares how Jehovah will bless those serving Him.—Isaiah 65:1–66:24.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
61:8, 9—What is the “indefinitely lasting covenant,” and who are the “offspring”? This is the new covenant that Jehovah has concluded with anointed Christians. The “offspring” are the “other sheep”—the millions who respond to their message.—John 10:16.
63:5—How does God’s rage support him? God’s rage is a controlled emotion—his righteous indignation. His rage supports and motivates him to execute his righteous judgments.
Lessons for Us:
65:13, 14. Jehovah blesses his faithful servants, abundantly satisfying their spiritual need.
66:3-5. Jehovah hates hypocrisy.
“Exult, You People”
How comforting the restoration prophecies must have been to the faithful Jews living as exiles in Babylon! “Exult, you people,” said Jehovah, “and be joyful forever in what I am creating. For here I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation.”—Isaiah 65:18.
We too live at a time when darkness envelops the earth and the nations are in thick gloom. (Isaiah 60:2) “Critical times hard to deal with” are here. (2 Timothy 3:1) Therefore, Jehovah’s message of salvation provided in the Bible book of Isaiah is of great encouragement to us.—Hebrews 4:12.
For a discussion of Isaiah 1:1–35:10, see “Jehovah’s Word Is Alive—Highlights From the Book of Isaiah—I” in the December 1, 2006, issue of The Watchtower.
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Do you know the primary reason why Hezekiah prayed to be saved from the Assyrians?
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“How comely upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news!”