“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah.”
1, 2. (a) What does it mean to be a witness, and in what notable way has this world’s news media failed? (b) Why does Jehovah not depend on this world’s media?
WHAT does it mean to be a witness? One dictionary gives this definition: “Someone who sees an event and reports what happened.” For example, in the city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, a newspaper now called The Witness has been published for over 160 years. The name is fitting, since the purpose of a newspaper is that of reporting accurately on events that take place in the world. The founding editor of The Witness pledged that the newspaper would tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
2 Sadly, though, the world’s news media has largely ignored or even distorted the most important facts of human history. This is certainly the case with what the almighty God stated by means of his ancient prophet Ezekiel: “The nations will have to know that I am Jehovah.” (Ezek. 39:7) But the Sovereign Ruler of the universe does not depend on this world’s media. He has some eight million Witnesses who tell people of all nations about him and his past and present dealings with mankind. This army of Witnesses also announces what God promises to do for the future blessing of mankind. By giving this witness work our priority, we prove true to our God-given name, as stated at Isaiah 43:10: “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah, ‘yes, my servant whom I have chosen.’”
3, 4. (a) When did the Bible Students adopt a new name, and how did they feel about it? (See opening image.) (b) What questions will we now consider?
3 What a privilege it is to bear the name Jehovah, for he is “the King of eternity,” who says: “This is my name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered from generation to generation”! (1 Tim. 1:17; Ex. 3:15; compare Ecclesiastes 2:16.) In 1931, the name Jehovah’s Witnesses was adopted by the Bible Students. Afterward, many letters of appreciation were published in this journal. “The good news that we are ‘Jehovah’s witnesses’ has thrilled us, and filled us with renewed determination to be worthy of the new name,” wrote one congregation from Canada.
4 How can you show your appreciation for the privilege of bearing God’s name? Also, can you explain the Scriptural context from which our name, Jehovah’s Witnesses, is taken?
GOD’S WITNESSES IN ANCIENT TIMES
5, 6. (a) In what way were Israelite parents to be witnesses of Jehovah? (b) What else were Israelite parents commanded to do, and why does the same need apply to parents today?
5 Individual Israelites of Isaiah’s day were “witnesses” of Jehovah, and the nation as a whole was God’s “servant.” (Isa. 43:10) One way Israelite parents witnessed was by teaching their children about God’s dealings with their forefathers. For example, when being instructed to observe the Passover each year, the people were told: “When your sons ask you, ‘What does this observance mean to you?’ you must say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Passover to Jehovah, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he plagued the Egyptians, but he spared our houses.’” (Ex. 12:26, 27) Those parents may also have explained to their children that when Moses first approached Egypt’s ruler to ask permission for the Israelites to worship Jehovah in the wilderness, Pharaoh replied: “Who is Jehovah, that I should obey his voice to send Israel away?” (Ex. 5:2) Of course, it could also be related that after ten plagues devastated the land and after the Israelites escaped from Egypt’s army at the Red Sea, the answer to Pharaoh’s question became clear for all to see. Jehovah was
6 Israelites who appreciated the privilege of bearing Jehovah’s name no doubt reported these wonderful developments not only to their children but also to the foreigners who became slaves in their households. Equally important, the Israelites were commanded to train their children to observe God’s standards of holiness. Jehovah said: “You should be holy, because I, Jehovah your God, am holy.” (Lev. 19:2; Deut. 6:6, 7) What a fine pattern this sets for Christian parents today, who must likewise train their children in the ways of holiness, thereby helping them to bring honor to God’s glorious name!
7. (a) When Israel was faithful to Jehovah, what effect did this have on surrounding nations? (b) What responsibility rests on all who bear God’s name?
7 Thus, when the Israelites were faithful, they gave a fine witness to God’s name. They had been told: “All the peoples of the earth will have to see that Jehovah’s name has been called upon you, and they will be afraid of you.” (Deut. 28:10) Sadly, however, Israelite history was mostly a record of unfaithfulness. Time and again, they returned to the worship of man-made idols. Moreover, like the Canaanite gods they worshipped, they became cruel, sacrificing their children and oppressing the poor. What a powerful lesson this is for us to strive always to be holy in imitation of the Most Holy One, whose name we bear!
“LOOK! I AM DOING SOMETHING NEW”
8. What commission did Isaiah receive from Jehovah, and how did Isaiah react?
8 Jehovah had foretold a marvelous act of deliverance from captivity that the Israelite nation would witness. (Isa. 43:19) The first six chapters of the book of Isaiah are largely warnings about the certain calamity that was to come upon Jerusalem and its surrounding cities. Jehovah, the perfect reader of hearts, told Isaiah to continue proclaiming this warning even though he would be met with a hardening negative response. Isaiah was shocked and wanted to know for how long God’s nation would remain unrepentant. God’s answer? “Until the cities crash in ruins without an inhabitant and the houses are without people and the land is ruined and desolate.”
9. (a) When did Isaiah’s prophecy about Jerusalem come true? (b) What situation exists today that calls for wakefulness on our part?
9 Isaiah received this commission in the last year of King Uzziah’s reign, or about 778 B.C.E. He continued his prophetic service for some 46 years until after 732 B.C.E., well into the reign of King Hezekiah. That was 125 years before Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E. Thus, ample advance notice of what was going to happen to their nation in the future was given to God’s people. Today, Jehovah has also had his people give ample notice of what lies ahead. For 135 years, from its very first issue, The Watchtower has called on its readers to be awake to the fact that Satan’s wicked rulership will soon end and be replaced by the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ.
10, 11. What fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy did the Israelites in Babylon witness?
10 Many obedient Jews who surrendered to the Babylonians survived Jerusalem’s destruction and were taken captive to Babylon. (Jer. 27:11, 12) There, 70 years later, God’s people witnessed the fulfillment of an amazing prophecy: “This is what Jehovah says, your Repurchaser, the Holy One of Israel: ‘For your sakes I will send to Babylon and bring down all the bars of the gates.’”
11 In line with that prophecy, a world-shaking event happened one night early in October 539 B.C.E. While Babylon’s king and his nobles were drinking wine from holy vessels captured from Jerusalem’s temple and were praising their man-made gods, the armies of Media and Persia conquered Babylon. In 538 or 537 B.C.E., Babylon’s conqueror, Cyrus, commanded the Jews to return and rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem. All of this was foretold by Isaiah, including Jehovah’s promise that he would provide for and protect his repentant people as they returned to Jerusalem. God called them “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” (Isa. 43:21; 44:26-28) Once these former exiles had returned and rebuilt Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem, they became witnesses to the fact that Jehovah, the only true God, always fulfills his word.
12, 13. (a) Who were included with the Israelites in the restoration of Jehovah’s worship? (b) What is expected of the “other sheep” as they support “the Israel of God,” and what hope do they have?
12 Thousands of non-Israelites were part of the reborn nation, and later many other Gentiles became Jewish proselytes. (Ezra 2:58, 64, 65; Esther 8:17) Today, “a great crowd” of Jesus’ “other sheep” give their loyal support to anointed Christians, who make up “the Israel of God.” (Rev. 7:9, 10; John 10:16; Gal. 6:16) The great crowd also share that God-given name, Jehovah’s Witnesses.
13 During the Thousand Year Reign of Christ, the great crowd will have the unspeakable joy of explaining to resurrected ones what it was like to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the last days of this system of things. But our doing this will be possible only if we prove true to our name now and strive to remain holy. Also, no matter how hard we try, we must daily ask forgiveness for any lack of holiness, recognizing that we are sinners and that being allowed to bear God’s holy name is an indescribably great honor.
WHAT GOD’S NAME MEANS
14. What does the name Jehovah mean?
14 To enhance our appreciation for the honor of bearing God’s name, it is good for us to meditate on its meaning. Commonly translated “Jehovah,” the divine name comes from a Hebrew verb that can describe action and can be translated “to become.” Thus, the name Jehovah is understood to mean “He Causes to Become.” This definition well fits Jehovah’s role both as the Creator of the physical universe and intelligent beings and as the Fulfiller of his purpose. As events unfold, he continues to cause his will and purpose to be realized no matter what any opposer, such as Satan, may do in an attempt to thwart the progressive outworking of God’s will.
15. In what way did Jehovah reveal an aspect of his personality as reflected in the meaning of his name? (See the box “A Name Full of Meaning.”)
15 When commissioning Moses to lead God’s people out of Egypt, Jehovah revealed an aspect of his personality by using a related verb to describe his name, this time in the first person. The Bible record states: “God said to Moses: ‘I Will Become What I Choose to Become’ [or, “I Will Prove to Be What I Will Prove to Be”]. And he added: ‘This is what you are to say to the Israelites, “I Will Become has sent me to you.”’” (Ex. 3:14; ftn.) Thus Jehovah, in any circumstance, will become whatever is needed to accomplish his purpose. To the once-enslaved Israelites, he proved to be a Deliverer, a Protector, a Guide, and a Provider who satisfied all their material and spiritual needs.
SHOWING OUR GRATITUDE
16, 17. (a) How can we show our gratitude for the privilege of bearing God’s name? (b) What will we consider in the next article?
16 Today, Jehovah continues to be true to the meaning of his name by satisfying all our spiritual and material needs. And yet, the meaning of God’s name is not limited to what he himself chooses to become. It includes what he causes to happen with regard to the work of his Witnesses in accomplishing his purpose. Meditating on this will motivate us to keep on living up to his name. As 84-year-old Kåre, who has been a zealous Witness in Norway for the past 70 years, says: “I feel that it is a great honor to serve Jehovah, the King of eternity, and to be a part of the people who are called by his holy name. It is always a great privilege to explain Bible truth and to see people’s eyes light up with joy and understanding. For instance, it brings me deep satisfaction when I teach them how Christ’s ransom sacrifice works and how, by means of it, they can get everlasting life in a peaceful and righteous new world.”
17 Admittedly, in some territories it is increasingly difficult to find people who desire to learn about God. Nevertheless, like Kåre, do you not experience deep joy when you find a listening ear and are able to teach that person about the name of Jehovah? But how can we be Jehovah’s Witnesses and at the same time be witnesses of Jesus? That question will be the subject of our next article.