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‘TheyShall Know that a Prophet Was Among Them’
JEHOVAH GOD is interested in having people know him. Though he is invisible to human eyes, he provides various ways by which they can know his personality. They can know what to expect from him and what he expects of them.
One can come to understand that Jehovah is a God of surpassing wisdom by observing creation. This also reveals the loving care with which he designed things for man’s welfare and enjoyment. A second way to know God is through his Word of truth, the Bible. Herein one finds the full expression of Jehovah’s purpose toward mankind—why man is on the earth and the blessings that God has in store.
A third way of coming to know Jehovah God is through his representatives. In ancient times he sent prophets as his special messengers. While these men foretold things to come, they also served the people by telling them of God’s will for them at that time, often also warning them of dangers and calamities. People today can view the creative works. They have at hand the Bible, but it is little read or understood. So, does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come?
These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is this prophet? The clergy of the so-called "Christian" nations hold themselves before the people as being the ones commissioned to speak for God. But, as pointed out in the previous issue of this magazine, they have failed God and failed as proclaimers of his kingdom by approving a man-made political organization, the League of Nations (now the United Nations), as "the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth."
However, Jehovah did not let the people of Christendom, as led by the clergy, go without being warned that the League was a counterfeit substitute for the real kingdom of God. He had a "prophet" to warn them. This "prophet" was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. They are still proclaiming a warning, and have been joined and assisted in their commissioned work by hundreds of thousands of persons who have listened to their message with belief.
Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a "prophet" of God. It is another thing to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record. What does it show?
During the World War I period this group, the International Bible Students, was very active in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, as their Leader Jesus Christ had set this work before them in his prophecy at Matthew 24:14. They took literally Jesus’ words to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom is no part of this world." (John 18:36) They also took to heart Jesus’ words to his followers: "You are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." They expected to suffer for living according to that rule, just as Jesus went on to say, "on this account the world hates you." (John 15:19) Hatred toward them grew into violence during World War I.
These Bible Students had long been concerned with Ezekiel and his prophecy. In 1917 they published a book entitled "The Finished Mystery," explaining the book of Ezekiel as well as that of Revelation. This book criticized the clergy as false to the Word of Jehovah. Within nine months a ban was put on its circulation in the United States and Canada. Then eight members of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, including its president and secretary-treasurer, were sentenced to prison in the Federal penitentiary, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.
Though the work of these Christians was crippled for a while, after only nine months the eight men were freed from prison, in March 1919. They accepted this as an answer from God to their prayers. Their work was revived, much to the consternation of the clergy, who had been behind the banning.
Accordingly, their magazine The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, in its issues of August 1 and 15, 1919, encouraged vigorous resumption of the work of preaching the good news free from the fear of men. Under the subject "Blessed Are the Fearless," the following statements were made:
"There is a fear which is very proper, and which everyone must have who is pleasing to God, and this is known as ‘Godly fear’. It means a holy reverence for Jehovah and a fear lest we should displease him and come short of the blessings he has promised us. . . . The Scriptures abound with testimony that those whom God approves do not fear man nor any other creature, but have a holy, reverential fear of Jehovah. In times of old Jehovah justified some men to friendship with him, and the record of his dealing with them was written for the benefit of the church."
Ezekiel was one of these men so used by God, and not only his prophecies, but also Ezekiel himself and his acts were pictorial of things to come.
"PROPHET" SPEAKS TO CHRISTENDOM
A General Convention was held by the International Bible Students at Cedar Point, Ohio, September 1-8, 1919. Thousands of Jehovah’s servants were present from the United States and Canada. There the Watch Tower Society’s president urged the fearless resumption of the work, and this with the use of the outspoken magazine entitled "The Golden Age." In the public talk delivered on the subject "The Hope for Distressed Humanity," the speaker declared that the Lord’s displeasure was certain to be visited upon the League of Nations,
"because the clergy—Catholic and Protestant—claiming to be God’s representatives, have abandoned his plan and endorsed the League of Nations, hailing it as a political expression of Christ’s kingdom on earth."
The League of Nations came into being in 1919 and began really to function when it was ratified by the signatory powers at Paris on January 10, 1920. But Jehovah’s servants continued to proclaim the Messianic kingdom of God. When the ban on The Finished Mystery was lifted, they resumed its circulation and, with it as a textbook, they continued to study the book of Ezekiel. As time went on and further developments fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel, a three-volume set of books titled "Vindication" provided an up-to-date understanding, showing more fully the application of the prophecy.
Thus this group of anointed followers of Jesus Christ, doing a work in Christendom paralleling Ezekiel’s work among the Jews, were manifestly the modern-day Ezekiel, the "prophet" commissioned by Jehovah to declare the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom and to give warning to Christendom. It is significant that, in 1931, after twelve years of faithful service despite the opposition of Christendom’s clergy, these followers of Christ embraced the name "Jehovah’s witnesses" at the same convention at which the book Vindication was released.—Isa. 43:10-12, American Standard Version.
PROPHET SENT TO "REBELLIOUS NATIONS"
When Jehovah spoke to the Jewish priest Ezekiel, commissioning him as his prophet, he said: "Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to rebellious nations that have rebelled against me." (Ezek. 2:3) Who are those who constitute the "sons of Israel" and the "rebellious nations" against Jehovah, in this "time of the end"?
Back there in Ezekiel’s day the Israelite people to whom Ezekiel was sent could be called "rebellious nations" because in 997 B.C.E. ten of the tribes of Israel had revolted against rule by the royal line of David, who sat on "Jehovah’s throne." (1 Chron. 29:23) Thus there came to be two kingdoms or "nations." The Kingdom of Israel set up golden calves for worship and the Kingdom of Judah later also rebelled against Jehovah by breaking his laws and engaging in idolatry.
In the modern fulfillment, who are the "rebellious nations" that have rebelled against Jehovah? Their counterpart is Christendom. The Bible gives the proof. For Christendom has applied to herself the apostle Paul’s words at Galatians 6:15, 16 (Authorized Version): "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God." For instance, in his "A Commentary and Critical Notes" (1836 edition), the Wesleyan Methodist minister Dr. Adam Clarke makes this comment on the expression "The Israel of God": "The true Christians, called here the Israel of God, to distinguish them from Israel according to the flesh."
Romans 2:29 (AV) corroborates the above understanding. The apostle says: "But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."
The history of Christendom shows that she has not been true to her claim of being "the Israel of God." From the fourth century on she has shown herself to be apostate, rebellious against Jehovah and his Word of truth. Corresponding to Israel’s history, there was a break between the Greek churches and the Latin churches in 1054 C.E., when the Roman pope’s legates excommunicated Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople.
Later, in 1529 C.E., the Protestant movement was established by the followers of ex-priest Martin Luther, and in 1534 the king of England, Henry VIII, was declared to be the Supreme Head of the Church of England. After this, numerous non-Roman Catholic sects sprang up, so that a number of so-called "Christian" lands have their own national State churches. Therefore Christendom can be called "nations," and their attitude toward God’s Word the Bible and toward his Messianic kingdom is one of rebellion toward Jehovah. They continue to prefer political man-rule.
Ezekiel’s name meant "God Strengthens," and in order to carry out his mission to the end he needed God’s help, for the professed people of God to whom he was sent were "insolent of face and hard of heart." At the time, they might not view or appreciate him as a prophet of Jehovah. Nevertheless, whether they paid attention to him or refrained, the occasion was to come when these rebellious people would "know also that a prophet himself happened to be in the midst of them." Jehovah would confirm him as a prophet then by causing what Ezekiel prophesied to come true. (Ezek. 2:3-5) Ezekiel was further told:
"And you, O son of man, do not be afraid of them; and of their words do not be afraid, because there are obstinate ones and things pricking you and it is among scorpions that you are dwelling. Of their words do not you be afraid, and at their faces do not you be struck with terror, for they are a rebellious house. And you must speak my words to them, regardless of whether they hear or they refrain, for they are a case of rebellion."—Ezek. 2:6, 7.
Since the year 1919 C.E. Jehovah’s witnesses have found circumstances to be just like that as they have made the widest possible declaration of the good news of the Kingdom in 207 lands of the earth.
To Ezekiel, in his vision, and, symbolically to the modern-day "prophet," the spirit-begotten, anointed ones who are the nucleus of Jehovah’s witnesses today, God gave something to eat. Ezekiel says:
"And I began to see, and, look! there was a hand thrust out to me, and, look! in it there was the roll of a book. And he gradually spread it out before me, and it was written upon in front and on the back; and there were written in it dirges and moaning and wailing."—Ezek. 2:8-10.
No space on the scroll being wasted, it being written upon on both sides, it was a full message, containing a great deal of gloomy messages of calamity, back there to Jewry, and today to Christendom. Why so? Because in both instances Jehovah’s professed people were so rebellious and set in their ungodly way that Jehovah had to pronounce judgment upon them.
The scroll was doubtless delivered to Ezekiel by the hand of one of the cherubs in the vision. This would indicate that Jehovah’s witnesses today make their declaration of the good news of the Kingdom under angelic direction and support. (Rev. 14:6, 7; Matt. 25:31, 32) And since no word or work of Jehovah can fail, for he is God Almighty, the nations will see the fulfillment of what these witnesses say as directed from heaven.
Yes, the time must come shortly that the nations will have to know that really a "prophet" of Jehovah was among them. Actually now more than a million and a half persons are helping that collective or composite "prophet" in his preaching work and well over that number of others are studying the Bible with the "prophet" group and its companions.
So Jehovah has made every provision for individuals to know him and to receive his loving-kindness and life. Thus there is no excuse for Christendom’s people not to know Jehovah. More than that, Jehovah is interested not only in the vindication of his own name but also in vindicating his "prophet." Through another of his ancient prophets, Isaiah, he said to Jewry just as he says to Christendom today: "Look! My own servants will cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart, but you yourselves will make outcries because of the pain of heart and you will howl because of sheer breakdown of spirit."—Isa. 65:14.
Even today we hear complaints from Christendom’s churches about dwindling church attendance and see many young men abandoning the priesthood and the ministerial profession. Yet at the same time we see spiritual prosperity and contentment among those proclaiming Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom. We may look for an even more marked fulfillment of Isaiah’s words in the near future.
See the Federal Council Bulletin, Volume II, No. 1, of the year 1919, pages 12-14.