The Recovery of Waste

“They shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.”
—Isaiah 61:4

IT HAS BEEN REPORTED that, on average, everyone in the U.S.A. disposes of more than two pounds of cellulose each day. Cellulose is an abundant organic compound on Earth. It is found in all growing plants and trees. Paper is made from it, as are cartons and packing materials. A house for man’s shelter depends on it since a large percentage is used in dwellings, even if the exterior is of brick or stone. It should not be surprising, therefore, that it makes up 70% of all waste produced by society.


In 1995, President Clinton launched what is called “The Presidential Green Chemistry” awards. These are awarded if the chemistry of a new technology reduces or eliminates the use, or generation, of hazardous or polluting substances. The award is a handmade crystal sculpture representing Earth as a round bottom flask, a flask that is a common piece of equipment for the chemist. In 1999, the “Chemical and Engineering News Journal” reported that five awards were received according to the five categories for these awards. One award is given to small business, and another to academia. An award is given to a company that produces a safer chemical, and to one that develops a new chemical synthesis that is more efficient, and less waste-producing. Finally, an award is given for a process reducing disposal of solvents. Two of the awards in 1999 involved reducing cellulose waste. Biofine received the small business award for a process that will convert cellulosic waste to a useful compound from papermill sludge, municipal solid waste, unrecyclable waste paper, waste wood or agricultural residues. Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh received an award for developing activators for bleaching wood pulp, reducing cellulosic waste, and eliminating harmful by-products. Both processes, when implemented, will be a benefit to society in reducing waste.

‘Waste’ is defined in many ways. It refers to land that has no utility, such as a desert. It refers to something of no value, as refuse, garbage, rubbish, sewage. It is something that needs disposition in one way or another. Our text from Isaiah 61:4 tells of God’s great recovery process of waste that starts with Messiah’s ministry.


The first of the great wastes that occurred upon earth was when father Adam sinned and plunged all his posterity into sin and death. In man’s experiences since then, whenever wars are fought and the young men of nations kill each other in the conflicts that occur, we say, “What a great waste this is of young manhood.” It truly is. Death is man’s great enemy that causes the waste of all mankind. Even under normal circumstances, disease, famine, and raging elements of earth bring premature death to many. We read, “In Adam all die” (I Cor. 15:22): all await the wasting away of the human body that ends in death.

Along with the death penalty came the cursing of the earth, or as recorded, “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”—Gen. 3:17-19

The earth became a difficult place to grow the required ‘herbs’ or sustenance as food for man, because waste materials came forth instead. As described by the Apostle Paul: “that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” (Heb. 6:8) The earth has become a huge waste dump for the disposition of the wastes arising from the penalty of sin and death.

All of this is graphically described by the Prophet Isaiah in the 24th chapter of his book. No one is spared. All have to suffer the consequences. He says: “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word. The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.”—Isa. 24:1-6


In these verses we find not only a description of the curse upon mankind and the earth, but also upon man’s social arrangement, pictured by the earth, which has to be wasted in order to make way for God’s kingdom. After the fall of man, and the further despoiling of the earth by “the angels which kept not their first estate” (Jude 6), God started to develop the nation of Israel, which he likens to a man preparing a place in the cursed earth for a vineyard with the expectation that it would bring forth luscious grapes. Instead, wild, sour grapes were brought forth. Isaiah wrote, “Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.”—Isa. 5:1,2

This vineyard is clearly defined by Isaiah in the seventh verse, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant.” God gave Israel every advantage that any nation could receive, but they failed. As Paul asked, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Rom. 3:1,2) The Messiah was sent to them, but they rejected him. Not only did they reject him, but, as Jesus forecast in Matthew 21:33-40, they would slay him. He used the same illustration of a vineyard and how it was unlawfully possessed by the husbandmen representing the Scribes and Pharisees. When the owner of the vineyard (God, the Father) sent his Son (Jesus) to these husbandmen, they sought to solidify their possession of the vineyard by killing the son. Every detail of this parable was fulfilled.


When Israel rejected Jesus, he rejected them, saying, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:38) We note how accurately Isaiah prophesied of this happening when he asked: “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”—Isa. 5:3-6

As Jesus said that it would be, so it happened that Israel’s house was left desolate. The nation was completely devastated by the Roman armies and the people scattered throughout the earth. Even the land came under the control of people who did not cultivate it, causing it to become a literal wasteland. These, also, jealously guarded the land and would not let any others take possession of it. Christian nations wanted it, but one crusade after another failed to dislodge the Moslems who had taken control of the land.


When Jesus began his ministry, he went into the synagogue of Nazareth on a Sabbath and stood up to read. The book of the Prophet Isaiah was brought to him and he unrolled the scroll to the 61st chapter and read the first two verses, saying: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18,19) He closed the book after reading half of verse 2, and said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (vs. 21) Indeed, this marvelous prophecy of Isaiah had begun its fulfillment. The one who would be able to bring reality to these wonderful words of Isaiah had arrived, and had begun the necessary tasks of his ministry.

Jesus was to demonstrate the wonderful works of God’s kingdom in the three and one-half years of his ministry, before voluntarily succumbing to death in providing the ransom price. (I Tim. 2:6) The end of his life upon earth opened the way for fulfilling every feature of Isaiah’s prophecy, including the recovery of the wastes of earth mentioned in the fourth verse. Out of the wastes of mankind the first to be recovered are those who will be the “Priests of the Lord,” who will also be called “Ministers of our God.”—Isa. 61:6


The great waste recovery project starts with those selected in the Gospel Age to be “joint-heirs” with Jesus. (Rom. 8:17) The recovery of these from the depths of sin is shown as a remarkable transformation when they are able to say (as the bride of the lamb), “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Isa. 61:10) The 61st chapter is primarily a prophecy telling of the Lord’s ministry leading to the selection of those who will be joint-heirs with him.


It does not stop with the work of the Gospel Age. It also was intended to forecast the recovery of Israel from its desolate condition. In our day we have witnessed the regathering of the nation of Israel, which began in 1878. As prophesied by Ezekiel, they had been “gathered from many nations upon the mountains of Israel, which had been a continual waste.”—Ezek. 38:8, Revised Standard Version

Not alone were people recovered and brought back to the land of promise, but the land itself began to be recovered from its desolate condition. The new tenants started to cultivate the land and to use irrigation to grow crops, as the land was converted from a waste to a useful condition. There cannot be found a more dramatic illustration of this remarkable recovery work than that painted by the Prophet Ezekiel in the 37th chapter of his book. The desolation of Israel is pictured by a valley of dry bones. “These bones are the whole house of Israel.” (Ezek. 37:11) The prophet saw a fulfillment of God’s promise to restore Israel as these bones came together to be followed by sinews, flesh and skin covering them. Finally, breath was given to them “and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.”—Ezek. 37:10

Now, as a recognized nation with much capability of sustaining itself, Israel is a harbinger of God’s coming kingdom of blessing for all the people of the earth. Jesus likened the regathering of Israel to the fig tree blossoming. He said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it [God’s kingdom] is near, even at the doors.”—Matt. 24:32,33


The events in the world, especially involving the nation of Israel, indicate the proximity of God’s kingdom and the time when all mankind will be salvaged during the glorious reign of Christ. The healing works of Jesus’ ministry on earth will become available for all people as the wonderful work of raising the dead begins. The recovery from death will begin as the words of Jesus are fulfilled as he himself said: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good [the church], to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil [have not been consecrated to a life of doing good], to the resurrection of judgment.”—John 5:28,29, RSV

The Judgment Day work will be an operation of recovery from the waste of the past. The works mentioned by Jesus in quoting Isaiah’s prophecy, as ‘healing the brokenhearted’ (Isa. 61:1), or those broken by the trials and adversities of the former life, the ‘deliverance to the captives,’ or the resurrection work for those in the prison house of death, the ‘recovering of sight to the blind,’ or the bringing of all men to a knowledge of the Truth (I Tim. 2:4), the ‘setting at liberty them that are bruised,’ or the freedom for mankind from sin, death, and the dominion of Satan (Luke 4:18), were demonstrated in part by his ministry, but will be fulfilled in Christ’s kingdom.

The work of the kingdom will be one of comforting all that mourn, or, as stated in Revelation 21:4, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” The world will receive the ‘oil of joy for mourning.’ The great waste of ashes, the ashes of death in particular, will be replaced by the beauty of the resurrection.

Then God’s great recovery process of waste will be complete!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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