Why do you people keep paying out money for what is not bread, and why is your toil for what results in no satisfaction? Listen intently to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul find its exquisite delight in fatness itself.
But, first of all, the invitation is directed to Jehovah’s people who are in a covenant with him but who find themselves in unsatisfying circumstances. Why? Because they are toiling and buying and eating and drinking, but continuing to die hopeless. We get the clue to the situation when we recall that the prophet Isaiah foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, the desolating of the land of Judah, and the exile of the Jews in the pagan land of Babylon. The desolation of the land while its native inhabitants were in exile was to last for seventy years, from 607 to 537 before our Common Era.
15. Jehovah had foretold that he would provide release for the Jewish people by means of whom, and why is his role of special interest to us?
15 Babylon, with its false gods and worship, its imperialism and commercialism, offered the exiled Jews nothing. It offered no hope of release with an opportunity to resume the worship of the true and living God in their homeland: “Is this the man [the king of Babylon] that . . . did not open the way homeward even for his prisoners?” (Isaiah 14:16, 17)
17. Who are, in effect, modern-day Babylonians, and on what do they feed?
17 Today, billions of earth’s inhabitants find themselves under religious, moral, intellectual and social oppressions of Babylon the Great, not just in so-called pagandom but equally as much in Christendom. They are paying money for their religion, according to the commercializing of religion by their many sects and cults. Their religions have not separated them from this world, but have encouraged and approved of their being an active part of this world. Their religions have not turned them away from putting their reliance upon men and man-made institutions. Even the people of Christendom have no outlook except to depend further upon men to work out world problems and bring relief. They are, in effect, modern-day Babylonians, and what they feed upon religiously does not really satisfy or bring true relief.
18. (a) By means of what covenant does Jehovah have a people in relationship with him today? (b) Who are the people that stick faithfully to this new covenant?
18 Back in the sixth century B.C.E. those who should not have been the “prisoners” of ancient Babylon were those who were in the Mosaic Law covenant with Jehovah God. If they had lovingly carried out their covenant obligations to Him, they would not have been exiles in heathen Babylonia, far away from their desolated homeland. Today, Jehovah still has a people in relationship with Him by a national covenant. Of this covenant, Jehovah’s Messianic Servant is the Mediator, one greater than the prophet Moses. Theirs is the covenant that replaced the Mosaic Law covenant in the year 33 C.E. It is the new covenant, as foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34. When setting up the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of his sacrificial death, Jesus Christ spoke of his blood as providing the means to seal and validate that new covenant. (Matthew 26:26-30; Luke 22:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:20-26) Obediently Jehovah’s Christian witnesses celebrate this Lord’s Supper each year on its anniversary date. They stick faithfully to Jehovah’s new covenant.
19. By what means did Babylon the Great get Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in her power during the course of World War I, and how did the prospects for them appear?
19 All of Babylon the Great as a world empire of false religion has unceasingly opposed Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. During the course of World War I in 1914-1918 C.E., she really got them in her power by means of her worldly, secular paramours. By means of political, military and judicial authorities Babylon the Great brought upon these worshipers of Jehovah all manner of persecution, including bans upon their religious literature by means of which they studied the Holy Bible. Their organization for openly spreading the good news of the Bible was badly crippled, particularly when members of the governing body of Jehovah’s visible organization were imprisoned under charges that, after the war, were reversed and thrown out of court. The prospects for a change in the situation were very dim, and the worst was awaited with feelings of resignation and submission to Jehovah’s will. Providentially, the official magazine, The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, continued to be published semimonthly, for the spiritual upbuilding of those to whom it was available, despite wartime conditions.
20, 21. How did the circumstances of Jehovah’s worshipers on earth make the time after World War I an appropriate one for a modern-day application of Isaiah 55:1, 2?
20 However, suddenly, there came an end to World War I. It did not lead on, as Bible students expected, into world revolution and anarchy or the battle of Armageddon. And the sincere worshipers of Jehovah, who were in the new covenant with him through his Mediator Jesus Christ, found themselves still in the flesh on the earth. But still in captivity to Babylon the Great and her political, military, judicial paramours! An unexpected postwar period opened before them, with possibilities for renewing and carrying forward the proclamation of the good news of God’s Word.
Why do you people keep paying out money for what is not bread, and why is your toil for what results in no satisfaction? Listen intently to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul find its exquisite delight in fatness itself.”—Isaiah 55:1, 2.
22. What was it that then proved to be like water, bread, wine and milk to Jehovah’s modern-day people?
22 Such a message did come from Jehovah God, through his Messianic Servant, Jesus Christ. It was meant to lift His people out of their depressed, negative state of mind and to infuse life and hope into them. What, then, would be like water, to quench their raging thirst for truth and righteousness? Like bread, to feed and strengthen their heartfelt devotion to God? Like wine, to make their hearts rejoice with health-giving joy? Like milk, to fatten and enrich their state of well-being in relationship with the one living and true God? (Psalm 104:15) It was the Scriptural message of deliverance from Babylon the Great by means of the established Messianic kingdom of God! It was the message of their liberation from the slavish bondage to this world, which is the “friend” of Babylon the Great, in order for them to fight for freedom of worship and to proclaim world wide the good news of God’s kingdom for the blessing of all distressed humanity.
23. How did it prove true that this provision was made available “without money and without price”?
23 The oppressed worshipers of Jehovah God did not have to pay for this message of liberation! They did not have to buy their way out of captivity and bondage to Babylon the Great! The message was offered to them freely to accept, and they must act upon it with courage and conviction! Then it would be like refreshing water, strengthening bread, joy-giving wine and fattening milk. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:32.
24. In the spring of 1919, what evidence of the liberation was there?
24 A concrete symbol of this liberation came in the spring of 1919, the first postwar year, with the release of the members of the governing body of Jehovah’s Christian worshipers from imprisonment in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. Shortly afterward the federal charges against these accused Christians were reversed, and later thrown out of court. Thus the members of the governing body of Jehovah’s Christian worshipers were relieved of the false charges of being lawless citizens, dangerous to the security of the country. Now, in appreciation of Christian freedom that comes from Jehovah through Jesus Christ his Servant, a more advanced study of His Holy Scriptures was made to ascertain what was the divine will for His people in this unexpected postwar period.
25. (a) To infuse God’s servants with courage, what was done in 1919? (b) Of what was announcement of the release of the magazine The Golden Age a sign?
25 Bible study left no uncertainty regarding the divine will. It pointed unerringly to the Kingdom work that was ahead for the worshipers of Jehovah that had survived the persecutions and hard times of World War I. So, in order to infuse courage into their hearts, the leading article entitled “Blessed Are the Fearless,” in two parts, appeared in the issues of August 1 and 15, 1919, of The Watch Tower. This theme was the keynote of the General Convention of these worshipers for eight days, September 1-8, at Cedar Point, Ohio. As a sign that there was more spiritual food in store for them and also more and greater work ahead, a thrilling announcement was made to the 6,000 conventioners by the president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society on September 5, 1919. To what effect? That the Society was going to publish another magazine besides The Watch Tower. This new biweekly magazine was to be called “The Golden Age” and would be complementary to the official magazine of Jehovah’s Christian worshipers. It too was meant to announce God’s kingdom.
26. As stated in its first issue, for what reason was The Golden Age published?
26 Showing the then-existing background in front of which this new magazine made its debut on October 1, 1919, the salutation in the opening issue said, in part:
Its purpose is to explain in the light of Divine wisdom the true meaning of the great phenomena of the present day and to prove to thinking minds by evidence incontrovertible and convincing that the time of a greater blessing of mankind is now at hand. Like a voice in the wilderness of confusion, its mission is to announce the incoming of the Golden Age.
There are more sad hearts in the world to-day than at any time of its history. A devastating war has afflicted the nations until they are torn and bleeding to death. Accompanying the war came the great pestilential influenza, claiming double the number of victims that fell as a result of the war. In the past few years, millions have gone down into death and other millions bemoan the loss of their loved ones.
Everywhere the cost of living mounts higher and higher and conditions of real want and famine stare many people in the face. In practically all the trades of the world the laborers are on strike or threatening to strike and thereby stop the wheels of commerce. There is a general unrest everywhere.
The financiers are no less in perplexity. . . .
THE GOLDEN AGE will carry into the homes of the people the desired message which will tend to restore calmness to the disturbed minds and comfort to the saddened hearts. We do not expect to accomplish this by human wisdom, because that has been tried and failed and such wisdom is foolishness in the sight of Jehovah. But we will point the people to the clear and indisputable evidence in the light of present-day events, disclosing the divinely expressed remedy for the reconstruction of human affairs that will bring the desire of all nations, assuring to the people life, liberty and happiness. We invite all order-loving, law-abiding, God-fearing persons to aid in passing this message of comfort on to those who desire to be comforted.
27, 28. To what grand hope did this magazine point, but what must come first?
27 Here, then, was a brand-new magazine pointing fearlessly forward to the restoration of paradise to this earth and the making of it earth wide for the enjoyment of all people of whatever race, color or national extraction.