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44 Eternal One: Nevertheless, listen to Me, My people:
        Jacob, My servant; Israel, My chosen.

The Eternal who made you,
    who formed you in the womb and promised to help you, has this to say:

Eternal One: Don’t be afraid, My servant Jacob,
        My dear Jeshurun—My chosen.
    Like a devoted gardener, I will pour sweet water on parched land,
        streams on hard-packed ground;
    I will pour My spirit on your children and grandchildren—
        and let My blessing flow to your descendants.
    And they will sprout among the grasses, grow vibrant and tall
        like the willow trees lining a riverbank.
    One will call out: “I belong to the Eternal.”
        Another will say, “Jacob is my people; Israel my honored name.”
    Yet others will write “Property of the Eternal” on their hands.

The Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies,
    King of Israel, who paid their ransom, has this to say:

Eternal One: I am at the beginning and will be at the end.
        There is no God except for Me.
    If you know any God like Me, tell it now.
        Declare and demonstrate any who can compare to Me.
    Or if you know and have announced events before their time,
        told what is to come, then speak so now.
    Don’t be afraid. Let your minds be clear of fear.
        Haven’t I announced events and revealed what is to come?
    From the earliest days, I have done so. You know it—you have seen and know.
        So, go ahead, My witnesses: is there a god out there other than Me?

Witnesses: There is no other rock like God. I don’t know a single one.

All of the nations that Israel encounters are involved in some form of idol worship. They imagine these gods and fashion these images in order to satisfy a desire—a God-given desire—to connect with something, with someone out there. Human beings know at some deep, intuitive level that God exists, life is sacred, and there are mysteries more profound than the daily grind. This is why every human civilization exhibits some form of religious life and devotion. But instead of seeking the God who is, people have a tendency to create the gods they want, gods that give them control over the complexities and problems of life. Israel is elected by God for a number of reasons. Perhaps two of the most significant are to bear witness to the one True God and to warn the nations against idolatry. According to Scripture, idol worship is not some neutral, unfortunate habit people get themselves into; it is more than just a waste of time, hope, and effort. It is a dangerous substitute—a counterfeit experience—that adversely misshapes and disorders their lives. To persist in idolatry is to give way to malevolent evils and to miss out on a relationship with the one True God.

But whoever does make an idol is not improved or enriched. On the contrary, their passing fancies contribute nothing of value or purpose. Those who look on at such misplaced attention don’t understand what they’re seeing, and the idol-makers will end up embarrassed at best. 10 It’s easy to say, “What pathetic idiocy! Who would do such a thing—make gods that are by definition worthless?” 11 The people who worship them will be shamed and humiliated. After all, people made those gods. Yet it happens all the time. So, let’s put these images, these figurines all together; stand them up—they will tremble with terror and be ashamed.

12 A metalworker shapes the raw materials into tools and then uses them to make little gods by hammering, bending, heating, and cooling the materials. And in the process, he gets tired and hungry; without water he soon grows faint. 13 Likewise, the woodworker measures and marks the wood, chisels and planes it down, marks it with a compass, and carves it until it looks a bit like a human—lovely, maybe—in order to put it in a house. 14 To take it back a bit further, perhaps he cuts down cedars or he carefully selects the cypress or oak himself, watches it, nurtures it until it is ready for his purpose. Perhaps he plants a pine; with sun and rain, it grows tall. 15 When it’s time to harvest, he uses some of the wood for fuel to stay warm, some to heat the oven and bake bread, and some to craft a god. Then the woodworker bows down and worships before the image he just made. 16-17 Do you see the irony? He sits around, warming himself and roasting dinner with wood from the same tree from which he crafted a god to which he bows and worships and prays—one time saying, “I am warmed by the wood fire”; another time saying, “O dear god, save me.”

18-19 So we see again how it is that they’re blind—their eyes shut to the truth in front of them, their hearts and minds refusing to think and really understand what’s going on. So without stopping to think about it, the fool says, “Gosh, I used half of the wood to build a fire, and baked the bread and roasted the meat over its hot coals. After I eat, I think I’ll use the rest of it to make a repulsive god. Maybe I’ll bow down to this leftover lumber.” 20 A fool like this is feeding on ashes—his addled mind and deceived heart lead him nowhere. He can’t figure out how to save himself, much less see the error of his ways and say, “Is this idol in my right hand just a lie?”

Eternal One: Let that be a lesson to you, My people.
21     Don’t forget it, Jacob; O Israel, remember—you are Mine.
        I made you; you are My servant; I will not forget you.
22     I have swept away your wrongdoing, as wind sweeps a cloud from the sky:
        I have cleared you of your sins, as the sun clears the morning mist.
    I have rescued you; come back to Me.

23 Sing, starry sky and every constellation, for what the Eternal has done.
    Shout for joy, dark soil underfoot and deep caverns below;
Erupt in joyful songs, mountains and forests, and every tree in them!
    Sing joyfully, for the Eternal One has rescued Jacob, His people;
The splendor of God will be revealed in Israel.

24 The Eternal, your rescuing hero who formed you before birth, declares,

Eternal One: I am the Eternal, Creator of all there is and will be.
        I alone stretched out the heavens and spread out the blue earth.
25     I confound the lying swindlers who claim to tell the future,
        and I make the fortune-tellers look like fools.
    I stop the highbrow intellectuals in their tracks,
        and I show the fault of their reasoning.
26     But I stand behind the words of My servants,
        and I accomplish what they predict.
    The one who says about Jerusalem, “This place will be built up again”;
        about Judah’s cities, “They will be restored”:
    I confirm their predictions. They will rise from their ruins.
27     After all, I am the One who needs only to say “Dry up” to great waters,
        and your rivers run dry.
28     I am the one who says of the Persian victor over Babylon,
        “Cyrus is My shepherd. He will accomplish what I determine.”
    My word goes out concerning Jerusalem:
        “It will stand, a glorious city, again”
        and of My house within it, “Restoration will begin at once.”

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