The Watchtower rightly points out that Isaiah is an ancient prophet with a modern message. Indeed, the message contained in the ancient prophecy of Isaiah is of the utmost relevance for the Watchtower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses at this present time.
The name Isaiah means “salvation of Jehovah.” The name Jesus means the same thing only the wording is reversed in the construction of the name – the name Jesus meaning: “Jehovah is salvation.” The salvation of Jehovah is an appropriate name for the author of the prophecy considering the fact that not only are there many messianic prophecies contained in Isaiah, but the prophecy itself focuses upon Jehovah’s relationship with his nation of people and his intention to correct, discipline and ultimately save those who respond to his love.
The first chapter of Isaiah encapsulates the situation. God’s people have strayed far away from him and have treated the Holy One of Israel with disrespect. They have left Jehovah – meaning, they have become apostate. God is going to have to set matters straight.
Although Isaiah’s prophecy was written almost 200 years before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, the opening chapter speaks from the vantage point of the city under siege. Isaiah 1:7-9 says: “Your land is a desolation, your cities are burned with fire; your ground—right in front of you strangers are eating it up, and the desolation is like an overthrow by strangers. And the daughter of Zion has been left remaining like a booth in a vineyard, like a lookout hut in a field of cucumbers, like a blockaded city. Unless Jehovah of armies himself had left remaining to us just a few survivors, we should have become just like Sodom, we should have resembled Gomorrah itself.”
The situation described in Isaiah is very similar to that depicted in the prophecy of Joel. Jesus also foretold that which is represented by the city of Jerusalem would be laid desolate and that God’s holy place would be trampled underfoot by strangers. Of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses understand that Jesus’ prophecy will be realized during the conclusion of the system of things. So too, while Isaiah’s prophecy initially focused upon the ancient city of Jerusalem the ultimate fulfillment relates to the remnant of the bride – the true “daughter of Zion.” And Jesus said that the great tribulation would be cut short on account of the chosen ones. That is what Isaiah is foretelling in connection with the survivors of the desolation. This indicates that the judgments contained in Isaiah will be fulfilled during the tribulation. It will be as though God speaks to his people then through Isaiah.
Of course the Watchtower teaches that the holy place destined for desolation is Christendom. But if that were the case are we to expect the “few survivors” to come from Christendom? Also, why does Jehovah state his determination to set things straight between himself and his erring people and cleanse them of their sin?
Next God addresses the leaders of his people in a most unflattering way, saying to them: “Hear the word of Jehovah, you dictators of Sodom. Give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah.”
Surely, this harsh rebuke could not possibly apply to the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Let the reader take note of the fact that Isaiah is speaking to those who formally worship Jehovah. That is why the prophet refers to “the law of our God.” Now consider the context in which God addresses the leaders of his people as the “dictators of Sodom.”
‘“Of what benefit to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?’ says Jehovah. ‘I have had enough of whole burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed animals; and in the blood of young bulls and male lambs and he-goats I have taken no delight. When you people keep coming in to see my face, who is it that has required this from your hand, to trample my courtyards? Stop bringing in any more valueless grain offerings. Incense—it is something detestable to me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of a convention—I cannot put up with the use of uncanny power along with the solemn assembly. Your new moons and your festal seasons my soul has hated. To me they have become a burden; I have become tired of bearing them.”’ – Isaiah 1:11-14
The law of God required the Israelites to regularly offer animal sacrifices at the portable tabernacle and later the temple in Jerusalem. As a Jew even Jesus kept the Law of Moses and attended the traditional festivals. But God became disgusted with such offerings because his people did not keep the weightier matters of the law; namely, righteousness, mercy and justice.
Jehovah’s Witnesses may or not be aware of the fact that in many respects the Watchtower Society has modeled itself after the ancient Jewish system of worship. For instance, just as there were three main annual festivals that all the Jews were required to attend, the Watchtower requires Jehovah’s Witnesses to attend three special assemblies each year, presently consisting of one main convention and one circuit assembly and a special assembly day. (There is no indication that the 1st century Christians ever met in large assemblies – excluding the thousands of Jews who gathered to listen to Jesus on several occasions.)
And just as the Jewish sabbath in the time of Jesus typically involved attendance at the synagogue, Jehovah’s Witnesses religiously attend one meeting on the weekend, usually Sunday, and one mid-week meeting as well. At such meetings public prayers are always offered up to Jehovah, which may be likened to the perfumed incense that the Hebrew priests used in their worship. And Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly offer up symbolic grain offerings in sacrifice to God in the form of the public preaching.
Now consider the Watchtower’s commentary found on page 22.
“Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed not only for their perverted sex practices but also for their hardhearted, haughty attitudes. Isaiah’s audience must be shocked to hear themselves being compared to the people of those accursed cities. But Jehovah sees his people just as they are, and Isaiah does not soften God’s message in order to ‘tickle their ears.’”
Further on in the material in the Isaiah’s Prophecy publication, the Watchtower states:
“In our day, Christendom has likewise failed to win God’s favor with her ceaseless repetition of vain prayers and her other religious “works.” It is of vital importance that we do not fall into the same trap.”
So, the Watchtower applies God’s rebuke to Christendom. They are supposedly the “dictators of Sodom” whose hardheartedness and haughtiness God endeavors to correct. At the same time though, individual Jehovah’s Witnesses are cautioned to guard against falling into the same trap of practicing a hollow form of religion. But is it possible that in Jehovah’s eyes the entire organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is guilty of practicing mere formalism? Some outsiders certainly view the Watchtower Society as a “works based” religion. And many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been heard to bemoan the inordinate emphasis placed upon the number of hours one spends in field service, meeting attendance and the ever-constant pressure to conform for the sake of organizational unity.
It is undeniable that the religion presently practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses has been molded into a Christianized version of Judaism, complete with Pharisees, high priests, regular festivals, synagogues, and an attitude of self-righteousness and superiority. Should not humility at least move Jehovah’s Witnesses to contemplate the possibility that Jehovah’s denunciation issued through the opening verses of Isaiah is directed to the leaders of the Watchtower Society during the judgment of the house of God?
Actually, the Watchtower admits as much, sort of.
A few paragraphs further on the Watchtower claims that in 1919 God made it clear that Christendom had been rejected. Here is their commentary in paragraph 24:
“Jehovah’s own people have made themselves his enemies. They fully merit divine vengeance. Jehovah will ‘relieve,’ or rid, himself of them. Does this mean a complete, permanent obliteration of his name people? No, for Jehovah goes on to say: ‘And I will turn back my hand upon you, and I shall smelt away your scummy dross as with lye, and I will remove all your waste products.”’
While applying half of God’s rebuke to Christendom the Watchtower then claims that God is in reality dealing with his people, not just those who falsely claim to be such. So, are Jehovah’s Witnesses led to expect God to cleanse the congregation? No. That supposedly has already taken place. Paragraph 25 says so:
“The prophecy at Malachi 3:1-5, written long after the Babylonian exile, showed that God would again do a refining work. It pointed to the time when Jehovah God would come to his spiritual temple accompanied by his “messenger of the covenant,” Jesus Christ. This evidently happened at the end of World War I. Jehovah inspected all of those claiming to be Christians, sifting the true from the false. With what result?”
Evidently…? God “evidently” smelted away the impurities of the International Bible Students at the end of World War I? This is an audacious statement for any organization to make. What the Society is claiming is that in 1918 Jehovah made their scarlet-red sins as white as snow. In other words, the Watchtower Society has declared itself to be pure and righteous in Jehovah’s eyes – “the City of Righteousness” and “Faithful Town” described in verses 26-27. There can be no future day of reckoning for those who are so privileged. But if the Watchtower’s interpretation is true, if Jehovah actually christened the Watchtower Society as the “City of Righteousness” back in 1918, why is not the other aspect of the prophecy in evidence? What aspect? The very next verse, which states: “And the crash of revolters and that of sinful ones will be at the same time, and those leaving Jehovah will come to their finish.”
According to the prophecy God’s judgments against apostates and sinful ones “will be at the same time.” What evidence is there that those who apostatized against Jehovah have come to their finish?Evidently, the judgment message contained in Isaiah is yet to be unveiled.
Unquestionably, the leadership of the Watchtower Society has claimed to be the rulers of the prophetic “City of Righteousness.” Their claim, however, is false. They are in actuality the haughty “dictators of Sodom” with whom Jehovah is yet to enter into judgment. It is they who have refused to take up the legal case of the fatherless boy. The princes of Bethel have perpetrated numerous frauds against Jehovah’s Witnesses and stubbornly cling to the 1914 hoax.
They have used uncanny power against Jehovah’s Witnesses, the part of which is evidenced in the evil subliminal images that litter the Society’s literature, some of which even appear in the very same commentary on Isaiah under consideration here.
The legal princes of Bethel have wickedly denied justice to thousands of sexually abused children, claiming in court that Christian elders have no obligation to protect children from the sexual crimes of a congregant; but when forced by the threat of a jury trial they have quietly paid out millions, only to slyly bind the victims with legal gag orders to prevent them from speaking about the crimes that were committed against them or the deplorable way their complaints were handled by the Watchtower Society.
Bethel’s princes travel the world giving public discourses and expecting in return the so-called “golden handshake,” which is when brothers come up and shake hands with them and discreetly pass a gift of cash to them. All the while Bethel arrogantly claims to have been declared righteous by God while they in turn denounce the clergy using the very rebuke God intends for them – the dictators of Sodom!
“Your princes are stubborn and partners with thieves. Every one of them is a lover of a bribe and a chaser after gifts. For a fatherless boy they do not render judgment; and even the legal case of a widow does not get admittance to them.” – Isaiah 1:23