The LORD's Comforting Words to Zion
40 1 "Comfort, oh comfort my people," says your God. 2 "Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem, but also make it very clear That she has served her sentence, that her sin is taken care of - forgiven! She's been punished enough and more than enough, and now it's over and done with."
3 Thunder in the desert! "Prepare for God's arrival! Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God. 4 Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, Smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks. 5 Then God's bright glory will shine and everyone will see it. Yes. Just as God has said." 6 A voice says, "Shout!" I said, "What shall I shout?" "These people are nothing but grass, their love fragile as wildflowers. 7 The grass withers, the wildflowers fade, if God so much as puffs on them. Aren't these people just so much grass? 8 True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade, but our God's Word stands firm and forever."
9 Climb a high mountain, Zion. You're the preacher of good news. Raise your voice. Make it good and loud, Jerusalem. You're the preacher of good news. Speak loud and clear. Don't be timid! Tell the cities of Judah, "Look! Your God!" 10 Look at him! God, the Master, comes in power, ready to go into action. He is going to pay back his enemies and reward those who have loved him. 11 Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, Hugging them as he carries them, leading the nursing ewes to good pasture. The Creator of All You Can See or Imagine
Israel's Incomparable God
12 Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger, Who has put all the earth's dirt in one of his baskets, weighed each mountain and hill? 13 Who could ever have told God what to do or taught him his business? 14 What expert would he have gone to for advice, what school would he attend to learn justice? What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows, showed him how things work? 15 Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket, a mere smudge on a window. Watch him sweep up the islands like so much dust off the floor! 16 There aren't enough trees in Lebanon nor enough animals in those vast forests to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship. 17 All the nations add up to simply nothing before him - less than nothing is more like it. A minus.
18 So who even comes close to being like God? To whom or what can you compare him? 19 Some no-god idol? Ridiculous! It's made in a workshop, cast in bronze, Given a thin veneer of gold, and draped with silver filigree. 20 Or, perhaps someone will select a fine wood - olive wood, say - that won't rot, Then hire a woodcarver to make a no-god, giving special care to its base so it won't tip over! 21 Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening? Haven't you heard these stories all your life? Don't you understand the foundation of all things? 22 God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants. He stretches out the skies like a canvas - yes, like a tent canvas to live under. 23 He ignores what all the princes say and do. The rulers of the earth count for nothing. 24 Princes and rulers don't amount to much. Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted, They shrivel when God blows on them. Like flecks of chaff, they're gone with the wind. 25 "So - who is like me? Who holds a candle to me?" says The Holy. 26 Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name - so magnificent! so powerful! - and never overlooks a single one?
27 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, "God has lost track of me. He doesn't care what happens to me"? 28 Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening? God doesn't come and go. God lasts. He's Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. 29 He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. 30 For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. 31 But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind.
God's Assurance to Israel
41 1 "Quiet down, far-flung ocean islands. Listen! Sit down and rest, everyone. Recover your strength. Gather around me. Say what's on your heart. Together let's decide what's right. 2 "Who got things rolling here, got this champion from the east on the move? Who recruited him for this job, then rounded up and corralled the nations so he could run roughshod over kings? He's off and running, pulverizing nations into dust, leaving only stubble and chaff in his wake. 3 He chases them and comes through unscathed, his feet scarcely touching the path. 4 "Who did this? Who made it happen? Who always gets things started? I did. God. I'm first on the scene. I'm also the last to leave. 5 "Far-flung ocean islands see it and panic. The ends of the earth are shaken. Fearfully they huddle together. 6 They try to help each other out, making up stories in the dark. 7 The godmakers in the workshops go into overtime production, crafting new models of no-gods, Urging one another on - 'Good job!' 'Great design!' - pounding in nails at the base so that the things won't tip over. 8 "But you, Israel, are my servant. You're Jacob, my first choice, descendants of my good friend Abraham. 9 I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, Telling you, 'You're my servant, serving on my side. I've picked you. I haven't dropped you.'
10 Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. 11 "Count on it: Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold - real losers. Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed - nothing to show for their lives. 12 When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won't find them - Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. 13 That's right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.' 14 "Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob? Don't be afraid. Feel like a fragile insect, Israel? I'll help you. I, God, want to reassure you. The God who buys you back, The Holy of Israel. 15 I'm transforming you from worm to harrow, from insect to iron. As a sharp-toothed harrow you'll smooth out the mountains, turn those tough old hills into loamy soil. 16 You'll open the rough ground to the weather, to the blasts of sun and wind and rain. But you'll be confident and exuberant, expansive in The Holy of Israel! 17 "The poor and homeless are desperate for water, their tongues parched and no water to be found. But I'm there to be found, I'm there for them, and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty. 18 I'll open up rivers for them on the barren hills, spout fountains in the valleys. I'll turn the baked-clay badlands into a cool pond, the waterless waste into splashing creeks. 19 I'll plant the red cedar in that treeless wasteland, also acacia, myrtle, and olive. I'll place the cypress in the desert, with plenty of oaks and pines. 20 Everyone will see this. No one can miss it - unavoidable, indisputable evidence That I, God, personally did this. It's created and signed by The Holy of Israel.
The LORD's Challenge to False Gods
21 "Set out your case for your gods," says God. "Bring your evidence," says the King of Jacob. 22 "Take the stand on behalf of your idols, offer arguments, assemble reasons. Spread out the facts before us so that we can assess them ourselves. Ask them, 'If you are gods, explain what the past means - 23 or, failing that, tell us what will happen in the future. Can't do that? How about doing something - anything! Good or bad - whatever. Can you hurt us or help us? Do we need to be afraid?' 24 They say nothing, because they are nothing - sham gods, no-gods, fool-making gods. 25 "I, God, started someone out from the north and he's come. He was called out of the east by name. He'll stomp the rulers into the mud the way a potter works the clay. 26 Let me ask you, Did anyone guess that this might happen? Did anyone tell us earlier so we might confirm it with 'Yes, he's right!'? No one mentioned it, no one announced it, no one heard a peep out of you. 27 But I told Zion all about this beforehand. I gave Jerusalem a preacher of good news. 28 But around here there's no one - no one who knows what's going on. I ask, but no one can tell me the score. 29 Nothing here. It's all smoke and hot air - sham gods, hollow gods, no-gods.
The LORD's Servant
42 1 "Take a good look at my servant. I'm backing him to the hilt. He's the one I chose, and I couldn't be more pleased with him. I've bathed him with my Spirit, my life. He'll set everything right among the nations. 2 He won't call attention to what he does with loud speeches or gaudy parades. 3 He won't brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won't disregard the small and insignificant, but he'll steadily and firmly set things right. 4 He won't tire out and quit. He won't be stopped until he's finished his work - to set things right on earth. Far-flung ocean islands wait expectantly for his teaching." The God Who Makes Us Alive with His Own Life
5 God's Message, the God who created the cosmos, stretched out the skies, laid out the earth and all that grows from it, Who breathes life into earth's people, makes them alive with his own life: 6 "I am God. I have called you to live right and well. I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe. I have set you among my people to bind them to me, and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations, 7 To make a start at bringing people into the open, into light: opening blind eyes, releasing prisoners from dungeons, emptying the dark prisons. 8 I am God. That's my name. I don't franchise my glory, don't endorse the no-god idols. 9 Take note: The earlier predictions of judgment have been fulfilled. I'm announcing the new salvation work. Before it bursts on the scene, I'm telling you all about it."
Praise for the LORD's Mighty Deliverance
10 Sing to God a brand-new song, sing his praises all over the world! Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause, with all the far-flung islands joining in. 11 Let the desert and its camps raise a tune, calling the Kedar nomads to join in. Let the villagers in Sela round up a choir and perform from the tops of the mountains. 12 Make God's glory resound; echo his praises from coast to coast.
13 God steps out like he means business. You can see he's primed for action. He shouts, announcing his arrival; he takes charge and his enemies fall into line: 14 "I've been quiet long enough. I've held back, biting my tongue. But now I'm letting loose, letting go, like a woman who's having a baby - 15 Stripping the hills bare, withering the wildflowers, Drying up the rivers, turning lakes into mudflats. 16 But I'll take the hand of those who don't know the way, who can't see where they're going. I'll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I'll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don't fall into the ditch. These are the things I'll be doing for them - sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute." 17 But those who invested in the no-gods are bankrupt - dead broke. You've Seen a Lot, but Looked at Nothing
Israel's Failure to Profit from Discipline
18 Pay attention! Are you deaf? Open your eyes! Are you blind? 19 You're my servant, and you're not looking! You're my messenger, and you're not listening! The very people I depended upon, servants of God, blind as a bat - willfully blind! 20 You've seen a lot, but looked at nothing. You've heard everything, but listened to nothing. 21 God intended, out of the goodness of his heart, to be lavish in his revelation. 22 But this is a people battered and cowed, shut up in attics and closets, Victims licking their wounds, feeling ignored, abandoned. 23 But is anyone out there listening? Is anyone paying attention to what's coming? 24 Who do you think turned Jacob over to the thugs, let loose the robbers on Israel? Wasn't it God himself, this God against whom we've sinned - not doing what he commanded, not listening to what he said? 25 Isn't it God's anger that's behind all this, God's punishing power? Their whole world collapsed but they still didn't get it; their life is in ruins but they don't take it to heart.
The LORD the Only Redeemer
43 1 But now, God's Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: "Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine. 2 When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down. When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end - 3 Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! 4 That's how much you mean to me! That's how much I love you! I'd sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. 5 "So don't be afraid: I'm with you. I'll round up all your scattered children, pull them in from east and west. 6 I'll send orders north and south: 'Send them back. Return my sons from distant lands, my daughters from faraway places. 7 I want them back, every last one who bears my name, every man, woman, and child Whom I created for my glory, yes, personally formed and made each one.'"
8 Get the blind and deaf out here and ready - the blind (though there's nothing wrong with their eyes) and the deaf (though there's nothing wrong with their ears). 9 Then get the other nations out here and ready. Let's see what they have to say about this, how they account for what's happened. Let them present their expert witnesses and make their case; let them try to convince us what they say is true. 10 "But you are my witnesses." God's Decree. "You're my handpicked servant So that you'll come to know and trust me, understand both that I am and who I am. Previous to me there was no such thing as a god, nor will there be after me. 11 I, yes I, am God. I'm the only Savior there is. 12 I spoke, I saved, I told you what existed long before these upstart gods appeared on the scene. And you know it, you're my witnesses, you're the evidence." God's Decree. "Yes, I am God. 13 I've always been God and I always will be God. No one can take anything from me. I make; who can unmake it?" You Didn't Even Do the Minimum
14 God, your Redeemer, The Holy of Israel, says: "Just for you, I will march on Babylon. I'll turn the tables on the Babylonians. Instead of whooping it up, they'll be wailing. 15 I am God, your Holy One, Creator of Israel, your King." 16 This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, 17 The God who summons horses and chariots and armies - they lie down and then can't get up; they're snuffed out like so many candles: 18 "Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. 19 Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. 20 Wild animals will say 'Thank you!' - the coyotes and the buzzards - Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, 21 the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.
22 "But you didn't pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob. You so quickly tired of me, Israel. 23 You wouldn't even bring sheep for offerings in worship. You couldn't be bothered with sacrifices. It wasn't that I asked that much from you. I didn't expect expensive presents. 24 But you didn't even do the minimum - so stingy with me, so closefisted. Yet you haven't been stingy with your sins. You've been plenty generous with them - and I'm fed up. 25 "But I, yes I, am the one who takes care of your sins - that's what I do. I don't keep a list of your sins. 26 "So, make your case against me. Let's have this out. Make your arguments. Prove you're in the right. 27 Your original ancestor started the sinning, and everyone since has joined in. 28 That's why I had to disqualify the Temple leaders, repudiate Jacob and discredit Israel.