“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah.”
1, 2. (a) What does it mean to be a witness, and what has the world’s news media not told people? (b) Why does Jehovah not depend on this world’s news media?
WHAT does it mean to be a witness? One dictionary explains that a witness is “someone who sees an event and reports what happened.” In South Africa, a newspaper that has been published for over 160 years is called The Witness. It is an appropriate name because the purpose of a newspaper is to report accurately on events. The editor who started this newspaper promised that it would tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
2 Sadly, the world’s news media has not reported accurately on many news events. It has surely not told the truth about God and what he has done. But Jehovah, the almighty Ruler of the universe, does not depend on the world’s news media. God said through his prophet Ezekiel: “The nations will have to know that I am Jehovah.” (Ezekiel 39:7) Jehovah has about eight million Witnesses who tell people around the world about him. This army of Witnesses tell others what God has done for people in the past and what he is doing now. They also tell about the wonderful things he has promised to do in the future. At Isaiah 43:10, we read: “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah, ‘yes, my servant whom I have chosen.’” When we make the preaching work the most important work in our lives, we prove that we really are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
3, 4. (a) When did the Bible Students start to be called Jehovah’s Witnesses, and how did they feel about this new name? (See opening picture.) (b) What questions will we now discuss?
3 Jehovah’s name will remain forever because he is “the King of eternity.” And he himself said: “This is my name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” (1 Timothy 1:17; Exodus 3:15; compare Ecclesiastes 2:16.) To be called by Jehovah’s name is the greatest honor we can have. In 1931, the Bible Students were thrilled when they began using the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many of them wrote letters to express their gratitude for this change. One congregation in Canada wrote that the new name made them more determined to live in a way that brings praise to Jehovah.
4 How can you show that you feel honored to be called a Witness of Jehovah? Also, can you explain why Jehovah calls us his Witnesses, as we read in the book of Isaiah?
GOD’S WITNESSES IN THE PAST
5, 6. (a) How did Israelite parents witness about Jehovah? (b) What else did Israelite parents need to do, and why do parents today need to do the same?
5 Jehovah chose the nation of Israel to be his witnesses. Each Israelite had the responsibility to witness about him. (Isaiah 43:10) For example, parents witnessed by teaching their children about what God did in the past. Jehovah instructed parents to teach their children about the Passover. He told them: “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.’” (Exodus 12:26, 27) Parents explained that Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go to the wilderness to worship Jehovah. Pharaoh said: “Who is Jehovah, that I should obey his voice to send Israel away?” (Exodus 5:2) Parents told their children how Jehovah answered Pharaoh’s question and showed to all that He is the Almighty. He brought ten plagues on Egypt and saved the Israelites from Egypt’s army at the Red Sea. The Israelites saw that Jehovah is the true God and that he always does what he promises.
The Israelites saw that Jehovah is the true God and that he always does what he promises
6 The Israelites felt that it was an honor for them to be witnesses of Jehovah. They told their children and any slaves who worked in their homes about the wonderful things that Jehovah had done. The Israelites also knew that they needed to keep their conduct holy. Jehovah said: “You should be holy, because I, Jehovah your God, am holy.” Israelite parents had to train their children to be holy, that is, to live according to Jehovah’s standards. (Leviticus 19:2; Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Parents today must do the same. They must train their children to live in a way that brings honor to God’s glorious name.
7. (a) When the Israelites obeyed Jehovah, what could the nations around them see? (b) What responsibility do all those who represent Jehovah have?
7 When the Israelites obeyed God, he blessed them. As a result, the nations around them could see that Jehovah was protecting his people. (Deuteronomy 28:10) But sadly, for most of their history, the Israelites were disobedient to Jehovah. They worshipped idols, the gods of Canaan. Like those gods, the Israelites became cruel. They sacrificed their own children and mistreated the poor. Their bad example teaches us an important lesson. We need to imitate Jehovah and be holy because we represent him, the Most Holy One.
“LOOK! I AM DOING SOMETHING NEW”
8. What did Jehovah tell Isaiah to do, and how did Isaiah react?
8 Jehovah used Isaiah to warn the Israelites that He was going to destroy Jerusalem, their capital city, and allow His people to be taken captive. Jehovah also foretold that he was going to do “something new” and free his people from captivity in an amazing way. (Isaiah 43:19) Jehovah knew that the Israelites would not repent, but he still told Isaiah to continue warning them. The first six chapters of the book of Isaiah are mostly warnings about the destruction of Jerusalem. Isaiah wanted to know how long the nation would continue to disobey Jehovah. God answered: “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) Today, what warning do we need to pay attention to?
9 For over 45 years, Isaiah warned the Israelites about the coming destruction. He started prophesying in the last year of King Uzziah’s reign, in 778 before Christ, and continued until about the year 732 before Christ, during King Hezekiah’s reign. After that, Jehovah continued warning his people until the year 607 before Christ, when Jerusalem was destroyed. So the Israelites were warned many years in advance about what was going to happen. Today, Jehovah has used his people to warn others about what will happen in the future. For many years, The Watchtower has been telling people that soon Satan will no longer rule the earth and that Christ will begin to rule the earth instead.
10, 11. What fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy did the Israelites in Babylon witness?
10 Some Jews survived the destruction of Jerusalem. They obeyed Jehovah’s instruction to surrender to the Babylonians and were taken captive to Babylon. (Jeremiah 27:11, 12) Seventy years later, a few of them witnessed the fulfillment of another one of Isaiah’s prophecies: “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 Jehovah fulfilled that prophecy in an amazing way. One night in October of the year 539 before Christ, Babylon’s king and his nobles were having a celebration in honor of their gods. They were even drinking from cups they had stolen from Jehovah’s temple. But that same night, King Cyrus and his armies invaded Babylon. They took control of the city and defeated the Babylonian Empire. In the year 538 or 537 before Christ, Cyrus commanded the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild God’s temple. And on their journey back, Jehovah made sure that they were safe. All of this happened just as Isaiah had prophesied. When God’s people finally saw the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt, they were witnesses to the fact that Jehovah is the true God and that he always does what he promises. God called the Jews who returned to Jerusalem “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.”
12, 13. (a) When the Israelites returned to rebuild the temple, who else joined them? (b) What must the “other sheep” do now, and what can they look forward to?
12 When the Israelites returned to rebuild the temple, thousands of foreigners joined them in worshipping Jehovah. Later, even more foreigners joined them. (Ezra 2:58, 64, 65; Esther 8:17) Today, anointed Christians are God’s nation, “the Israel of God,” and “a great crowd” of “other sheep” have joined them in worshipping Jehovah. (Galatians 6:16; Revelation 7:9, 10; John 10:16) Both the anointed and the other sheep have the honor of being called Jehovah’s Witnesses.
If we remain holy, we show we are grateful that Jehovah has allowed us to represent him
13 In the new world, the great crowd will have an amazing opportunity. They will tell resurrected ones what it was like to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the last days of Satan’s world. To have this privilege in the future, we must remain holy. Even though we try hard to live according to Jehovah’s standards, we make mistakes every day. So we daily need to ask Jehovah for forgiveness. If we remain holy, we show we are grateful that Jehovah has allowed us to represent him.
WHAT GOD’S NAME MEANS
14. What does the name Jehovah mean?
14 To get a better understanding of how great an honor it is to be called by Jehovah’s name, we need to know what his name means. The name Jehovah comes from a Hebrew word that can be translated “to become” and can describe action. Thus, God’s name is believed to mean “He Causes to Become.” Jehovah’s name helps us understand who he is. He is the One who created everything. Also, when Jehovah says that he will do something, no one can stop him from doing it, not even Satan.
15. What can we learn about Jehovah’s name from what he told Moses? (See the box “Jehovah
15 Jehovah explained more about the meaning of his name to Moses. When Jehovah sent him to free His people from Egypt, he told Moses: “I Will Become What I Choose to Become.” Jehovah added: “This is what you are to say to the Israelites, ‘I Will Become has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14; footnote) So Jehovah will become whatever is needed to accomplish his purpose. For the Israelites, Jehovah did whatever was necessary to be a Deliverer, a Protector, a Guide, and a Provider of everything they needed.
HOW WE SHOW WE ARE THANKFUL
16, 17. (a) How can we show we are thankful for the honor of being called by God’s name? (b) What will we discuss in the next article?
16 Today, Jehovah has not changed. His name reminds us that he will become whatever is needed in order to care for his people. For example, he gives us everything we need to live each day and to keep our faith strong. Jehovah’s name teaches us something else about him. What is that? Jehovah can cause his creation to do what is needed to accomplish his purpose. For example, he uses his Witnesses to do his work. Knowing this should motivate us to represent him well. Kåre from Norway, who has been a zealous Witness of Jehovah 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.”
Jehovah can cause his creation to do what is needed to accomplish his purpose
17 In some places around the world, it is difficult to find people who want to learn about Jehovah. But like Kåre, we are very happy when we find at least one person who wants to learn about Jehovah’s name. But how can we be Jehovah’s Witnesses and at the same time be witnesses of Jesus? This will be discussed in the next article.