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God Promises to Help Israel

41 “You lands of the sea, stand silent before me![a]

    Let the people renew their strength!
    Let them approach me and state their case.
    Let’s come together to decide who is right.
Who raised up the conqueror from the east?[b]
    Who commissioned him for his righteous purpose?[c]
    The Lord hands nations over to him[d]
    to trample kings under his feet,[e]
    to make them like dust with his sword[f]
    and like windblown chaff with his bow.[g]
Swiftly he pursues them and advances unscathed
    as he passes over unfamiliar land.[h]
Who achieved all this and made it happen?
    Who guides the destiny of each generation[i]
    from the first until now?
    I am the one! I am Yahweh, the first,
    the unchanging one who will be there in the end!”
The islands see it and panic;
    the ends of the earth tremble;
    they approach and draw near.
The idol-makers all bolster one another up,
    saying, “Take courage!”
The woodworker encourages the metalsmith;
    the one who flattens with the hammer
    spurs on the one who strikes the anvil,
    saying of the welding, “Looks good!”
    They nail down the idol so it won’t topple.
“But you—my servant, Israel,[j]
    Jacob, whom I’ve chosen,
    seed of my beloved friend[k] Abraham—
I drew you to myself from the ends of the earth
    and called you from its farthest corner.
    I say to you:
    ‘You are my servant; I have chosen you.
    I have not rejected you!
10 Do not yield to fear, for I am always near.
    Never turn your gaze from me,[l] for I am your faithful God.
    I will infuse you with my strength
    and help you in every situation.[m]
    I will hold you firmly with my victorious right hand.’
11 “All who rage against you will be ashamed and disgraced.
    All who contend with you will perish and disappear.
12 You will look for your enemies in vain;
    those who war against you will vanish without a trace!
13 I am Yahweh, your mighty God!
    I grip your right hand and won’t let you go!
    I whisper to you:
    ‘Don’t be afraid; I am here to help you!’
14 “Jacob, although you feel like a grub worm,[n] have no fear!
    O men of Israel, I am here to help you!
    I am your Kinsman-Redeemer,[o]
    the Holy One of Israel![p]
15 I am making you into a powerful threshing instrument,[q]
    with teeth[r] new and sharp!
    You will reduce hills to chaff and crush mountains[s] into dust!
16 You will winnow them, and the stormy wind will blow them away!
    Then you will spin and dance with rejoicing[t] in Yahweh,
    boasting with admiration in the Holy One of Israel![u]
17 “I, Yahweh, will respond to the cry of the poor and needy
    when they are thirsty and their tongues are parched with thirst!
    When they seek a drink of water but there is none,
    I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them.
18 I will open up refreshing streams[v] on the barren hills
    and springing fountains in the valleys.[w]
    I will make the desert a pleasant pool[x]
    and the dry land springs of water.[y]
19 I will plant in the treeless desert cedars and achaia,[z]
    myrtle[aa] and olive trees.[ab]
    I will set in the wilderness evergreens,[ac]
    together with many elm and cypress.[ad]
20 Everyone will see
    and know that I, Yahweh, with my mighty hands have done this.
    They will consider and comprehend
    that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”[ae]

Pagan Gods Are Nothing

21 Yahweh says, “Present your case.”
    “Let’s hear your arguments,” says the King of Jacob’s tribes.
22 “Come, you idols, and let’s hear your prophecy for the future.
    Tell us, tell us about your former prophecies
    so we can test them and see if they were fulfilled,
    or decree some future event for us.
23 Prophesy what the future holds
    to prove to us that you are gods.
    Do something—anything![af]
    Frighten us or put us in awe!
24 But you are nothing at all! What have you ever accomplished?
    Whoever chooses to worship you is disgusting!
25 “I stirred up one from the north,
    who comes from the rising of the sun.
    He will call on my name.[ag]
    He will trample rulers into the mud as a potter treads clay.
26 Which of you foretold this from the start?
    Who prophesied it from long ago that we can say, ‘He is right’?
    None of you prophesied it!
    None of you announced it ahead of time!
    No one heard you say a thing about it!
27 I was the first to decree to Zion, ‘Look, this is what’s about to happen!’[ah]
    I am bringing a messenger to Jerusalem with good news.
28 But when I look, I find no one who is capable to counsel me!
    There is no one who can respond to me with the right answer!
    Who could I even ask?
29 Look, all these gods are nothingness!
    What have they ever accomplished?
    Their metal images are nothing but empty wind and confusion!

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 41:1 Or “hold a feast to me” (LXX).
  2. Isaiah 41:2 See Isa. 46:11.
  3. Isaiah 41:2 Or “Righteousness summoned him to his foot.” Some see King Cyrus as the conqueror mentioned here; others, Abraham. It can also be viewed as a prophecy of the Lord Jesus. He is the Mighty One who conquers nations with his love.
  4. Isaiah 41:2 See Gen. 12:1-3; Ps. 2:8; Rev. 2:26-29.
  5. Isaiah 41:2 See Ps. 149:6-9.
  6. Isaiah 41:2 See Eph. 6:17-18; Heb. 4:12.
  7. Isaiah 41:2 See Rev. 6:1-2.
  8. Isaiah 41:3 Or “No shackle is placed on his feet” (Old Aramaic).
  9. Isaiah 41:4 Or “calling nations (to be formed) from the beginning.”
  10. Isaiah 41:8 Yahweh sings three poems of comfort in this chapter: to his chosen servant, Israel (vv. 8–13), to his redeemed warrior-bride (vv. 14–16), and to the poor and needy (vv. 17–20).
  11. Isaiah 41:8 See James 2:23.
  12. Isaiah 41:10 Or “Don’t be frightened.” The Hebrew root word sha ah means “to gaze, to look around.”
  13. Isaiah 41:10 See Deut. 31:6-8.
  14. Isaiah 41:14 David used this term to prophetically point to Jesus as he was being crucified. See Ps. 22:6. The Hebrew word is tola, which is a species of worm found in the Middle East (Coccus ilicus) that reproduces itself when the female fastens herself to a tree and lays eggs between her body and the tree. When the eggs hatch, the baby worms feed on her living body. When the eggs emerge, the blood remains on the tree as a crimson stain. When Jesus died on the cross (tree), his blood left a crimson stain and he gave birth to the church. He nourishes us and sustains us with body and blood.
  15. Isaiah 41:14 A kinsman-redeemer (go’el) is a male relative who was culturally responsible to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble or danger, needed to be redeemed from slavery, or was in need of rescue. He became like a “savior” or “family protector” for his next of kin. Jesus, our next of kin, is our Kinsman-Redeemer. The Hebrew verb ga’al (“to act as redeemer”) is found more than one hundred times in the Hebrew Bible. See Ruth 2:20.
  16. Isaiah 41:14 Although God is holy, he stoops to tenderly help those who feel unholy.
  17. Isaiah 41:15 Or “a threshing sledge,” a board with iron studs like teeth that is driven over wheat to grind the chaff off the grain, which is then winnowed.
  18. Isaiah 41:15 Or “the owner of two mouths.” The Word of God is like a “two-mouthed sword” (Heb. 4:12), for it is spoken from God’s mouth and is released in power as it is spoken from our mouths. We will become God’s two-mouthed threshing instrument!
  19. Isaiah 41:15 Mountains are a frequent biblical metaphor for kingdoms and nations.
  20. Isaiah 41:16 The Hebrew word for “rejoice” (giyl) implies “twirling, spinning, shouting with delight and joy.”
  21. Isaiah 41:16 Or “You will rejoice among the holy things of Israel.”
  22. Isaiah 41:18 See John 7:37-39.
  23. Isaiah 41:18 See Ps. 84:6.
  24. Isaiah 41:18 See Isa. 35:1-10.
  25. Isaiah 41:18 See 68:5–6.
  26. Isaiah 41:19 Acacia wood was used extensively in the tabernacle and was used to form the ark of the covenant.
  27. Isaiah 41:19 “Myrtle” is the Hebrew word Hadassah, Esther’s Jewish name.
  28. Isaiah 41:19 Or “trees of oil” (the Holy Spirit).
  29. Isaiah 41:19 Or “fir trees.”
  30. Isaiah 41:19 These seven trees speak of fullness of new creation life. Compare them to the seven branches of the lampstand and the seven Spirits of God.
  31. Isaiah 41:20 That is, the Lord created the unity of this forest. God is the one who makes us one.
  32. Isaiah 41:23 Or “Do good, do harm.”
  33. Isaiah 41:25 Or “He is summoned in my name.” Some believe that Cyrus fulfilled this prophecy, for he came from the east (Persia) and descended on Israel from the north. Others see the Messiah, who came from the north (Ps. 48:2) and is the Dayspring from the rising of the sun.
  34. Isaiah 41:27 Fulfilled prophecy is one of many evidences that God is real and powerful and that he knows all things.

The Helper of Israel

41 “Be silent(A) before me, you islands!(B)
    Let the nations renew their strength!(C)
Let them come forward(D) and speak;
    let us meet together(E) at the place of judgment.

“Who has stirred(F) up one from the east,(G)
    calling him in righteousness(H) to his service[a]?(I)
He hands nations over to him
    and subdues kings before him.
He turns them to dust(J) with his sword,
    to windblown chaff(K) with his bow.(L)
He pursues them and moves on unscathed,(M)
    by a path his feet have not traveled before.
Who has done this and carried it through,
    calling(N) forth the generations from the beginning?(O)
I, the Lord—with the first of them
    and with the last(P)—I am he.(Q)

The islands(R) have seen it and fear;
    the ends of the earth(S) tremble.
They approach and come forward;
    they help each other
    and say to their companions, “Be strong!(T)
The metalworker(U) encourages the goldsmith,(V)
    and the one who smooths with the hammer
    spurs on the one who strikes the anvil.
One says of the welding, “It is good.”
    The other nails down the idol so it will not topple.(W)

“But you, Israel, my servant,(X)
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,(Y)
    you descendants of Abraham(Z) my friend,(AA)
I took you from the ends of the earth,(AB)
    from its farthest corners I called(AC) you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;(AD)
    I have chosen(AE) you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear,(AF) for I am with you;(AG)
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen(AH) you and help(AI) you;
    I will uphold you(AJ) with my righteous right hand.(AK)

11 “All who rage(AL) against you
    will surely be ashamed and disgraced;(AM)
those who oppose(AN) you
    will be as nothing and perish.(AO)
12 Though you search for your enemies,
    you will not find them.(AP)
Those who wage war against you
    will be as nothing(AQ) at all.
13 For I am the Lord your God
    who takes hold of your right hand(AR)
and says to you, Do not fear;
    I will help(AS) you.
14 Do not be afraid,(AT) you worm(AU) Jacob,
    little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help(AV) you,” declares the Lord,
    your Redeemer,(AW) the Holy One(AX) of Israel.
15 “See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,(AY)
    new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains(AZ) and crush them,
    and reduce the hills to chaff.(BA)
16 You will winnow(BB) them, the wind will pick them up,
    and a gale(BC) will blow them away.(BD)
But you will rejoice(BE) in the Lord
    and glory(BF) in the Holy One(BG) of Israel.

17 “The poor and needy search for water,(BH)
    but there is none;
    their tongues are parched with thirst.(BI)
But I the Lord will answer(BJ) them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake(BK) them.
18 I will make rivers flow(BL) on barren heights,
    and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert(BM) into pools of water,(BN)
    and the parched ground into springs.(BO)
19 I will put in the desert(BP)
    the cedar and the acacia,(BQ) the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers(BR) in the wasteland,
    the fir and the cypress(BS) together,(BT)
20 so that people may see and know,(BU)
    may consider and understand,(BV)
that the hand(BW) of the Lord has done this,
    that the Holy One(BX) of Israel has created(BY) it.

21 “Present your case,(BZ)” says the Lord.
    “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.(CA)
22 “Tell us, you idols,
    what is going to happen.(CB)
Tell us what the former things(CC) were,
    so that we may consider them
    and know their final outcome.
Or declare to us the things to come,(CD)
23     tell us what the future holds,
    so we may know(CE) that you are gods.
Do something, whether good or bad,(CF)
    so that we will be dismayed(CG) and filled with fear.
24 But you are less than nothing(CH)
    and your works are utterly worthless;(CI)
    whoever chooses you is detestable.(CJ)

25 “I have stirred(CK) up one from the north,(CL) and he comes—
    one from the rising sun who calls on my name.
He treads(CM) on rulers as if they were mortar,
    as if he were a potter treading the clay.
26 Who told of this from the beginning,(CN) so we could know,
    or beforehand, so we could say, ‘He was right’?
No one told of this,
    no one foretold(CO) it,
    no one heard any words(CP) from you.
27 I was the first to tell(CQ) Zion, ‘Look, here they are!’
    I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good news.(CR)
28 I look but there is no one(CS)
    no one among the gods to give counsel,(CT)
    no one to give answer(CU) when I ask them.
29 See, they are all false!
    Their deeds amount to nothing;(CV)
    their images(CW) are but wind(CX) and confusion.

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 41:2 Or east, / whom victory meets at every step