Thursday, July 9
I will fortify you, yes, I will help you. —Isa. 41:10.
Isaiah had already described how Jehovah would fortify, or strengthen, his people, saying: “Jehovah will come with power, and his arm will rule for him.” (Isa. 40:10) The Bible often uses the word “arm” symbolically to signify power. So the statement that Jehovah’s “arm will rule” reminds us that Jehovah is a powerful King. He used his unbeatable strength to support and defend his servants in the past, and he continues to strengthen and protect those who trust in him today. (Deut. 1:30, 31; Isa. 43:10, ftn.) Especially when enemies persecute us, Jehovah keeps his promise: “I will fortify you.” In some parts of the world today, our enemies are trying hard to stop our preaching work or ban our organization. Even so, we are not overly anxious about such attacks. Jehovah has given us a guarantee that fills us with strength and confidence. He promises us: “No weapon formed against you will have any success.” —Isa. 54:17. w19.01 5-6 ¶12-13
The 40th chapter of Isaiah is the beginning of a long-running monologue Jehovah has with his people at a point in the future. Like most prophecies, though, it is set in ancient times. Ostensibly, God is speaking to the captive Jews in Babylon whom God repurchased and set free. In the grander fulfillment, the divine words are directed to Christians during the tribulation.
First, consider the Watchtower’s application of Isaiah 54:17. In context, the passage states: “If anyone should attack you, it will not be at my orders. Whoever makes an attack on you will fall because of you… No weapon formed against you will have any success, and you will condemn any tongue that rises up against you in the judgment.”
Isaiah was one of the earliest prophetic books written. The prophet lived to see the northern 10-tribe kingdom destroyed by the Assyrians. King Sennacherib was intent on taking out Jerusalem too, and in fact, began to lay siege to cities in Judah, but God intervened by sending an angel who slew the entire Assyrian army as they slept.
Some 150 years later though, the Babylonian hordes laid siege to Jerusalem. The prophet Jeremiah warned the Jews not to trust in fallacious words declaring “the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah”— as if the temple were a good luck charm.
Perhaps the Jewish priests even quoted Isaiah’s prophecy assuring the Jews that Jehovah would not allow any attack to succeed. They failed to realize that God had sanctioned the attackers and there is no way they would fail to destroy Jerusalem.
This is what Jehovah commanded Jeremiah to say to the last king of Judah: “Here I am turning around against you the weapons of war that are in your own hands, with which you are fighting the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them into the middle of this city. And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm, with anger and wrath and great indignation. I will strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast. By a great pestilence they will die.”’ — Jeremiah 21:4-6
Even after the Jews returned from Babylon and rebuilt the city of Jehovah and his temple, that city was destroyed by the Romans. Obviously, enemy weapons were successful against them on that occasion too.
The Governing Body realizes much of Isaiah’s prophecy has to do with the second coming of Christ and the complete fulfillment of God’s purpose in connection with “Israel.” Like most other prophecies the seers of Bethel teach that Isaiah has already been fulfilled. According to their latest adjusted understanding, Christians went into spiritual captivity to Babylon the Great back in the 4th century and the Bible Students were released in 1919.
There is a problem with that interpretation though. According to all accounts, the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews in Babylon was an expression of God’s anger and relatively brief. The very same 54th chapter states: “‘For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great mercy I will gather you back. In a flood of indignation I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting loyal love I will have mercy on you,’ says your Repurchaser, Jehovah.”
The gradual development of Christendom after Christianity was adopted as the state religion of Rome was not an expression of Jehovah’s indignation. And by what method of counting time could the16 centuries from Constantine to Rutherford be considered “a brief moment”?
As regards God’s guarantee that no weapon will have any success, look at the situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. It is laughable—embarrassing really— that the Governing Body continues to make such boasts. Russia has plundered Watchtower. All of the kingdom halls have been closed. The branch office in St Petersburg has been seized by the state. It is illegal for Jehovah’s Witnesses to preach or congregate. JW’s are being sent to prison and many are seeking asylum in neighboring countries. Russia has even blocked Internet users from accessing jw.org. That the Watchtower continues to boast that no attack against them will be successful is really indicative of their being under a deluding influence. Reality is entirely different.
We should consider the plundering of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia to be a portent of things to come on a global scale. Too bad the Governing Body simply refuses to take it to heart, just like Jehovah foretold: “Who has given Jacob for pillage and Israel to the plunderers? Is it not Jehovah, the One against whom we sinned? In His ways they refused to walk, and His law they would not obey. So He kept pouring out on him wrath, His anger and the fury of war. It consumed everything around him, but he paid no attention. It blazed up against him, but he would not take it to heart.” — Isaiah 42:24-25