A Light for the Nations
49 1-3 Listen, far-flung islands,
pay attention, faraway people:
God put me to work from the day I was born.
The moment I entered the world he named me.
He gave me speech that would cut and penetrate.
He kept his hand on me to protect me.
He made me his straight arrow
and hid me in his quiver.
He said to me, “You’re my dear servant,
Israel, through whom I’ll shine.”
4 But I said, “I’ve worked for nothing.
I’ve nothing to show for a life of hard work.
Nevertheless, I’ll let God have the last word.
I’ll let him pronounce his verdict.”
5-6 “And now,” God says,
this God who took me in hand
from the moment of birth to be his servant,
To bring Jacob back home to him,
to set a reunion for Israel—
What an honor for me in God’s eyes!
That God should be my strength!
He says, “But that’s not a big enough job for my servant—
just to recover the tribes of Jacob,
merely to round up the strays of Israel.
I’m setting you up as a light for the nations
so that my salvation becomes global!”
7 God, Redeemer of Israel, The Holy of Israel,
says to the despised one, kicked around by the nations,
slave labor to the ruling class:
“Kings will see, get to their feet—the princes, too—
and then fall on their faces in homage
Because of God, who has faithfully kept his word,
The Holy of Israel, who has chosen you.”
8-12 God also says:
“When the time’s ripe, I answer you.
When victory’s due, I help you.
I form you and use you
to reconnect the people with me,
To put the land in order,
to resettle families on the ruined properties.
I tell prisoners, ‘Come on out. You’re free!’
and those huddled in fear, ‘It’s all right. It’s safe now.’
There’ll be foodstands along all the roads,
picnics on all the hills—
Nobody hungry, nobody thirsty,
shade from the sun, shelter from the wind,
For the Compassionate One guides them,
takes them to the best springs.
I’ll make all my mountains into roads,
turn them into a superhighway.
Look: These coming from far countries,
and those, out of the north,
These streaming in from the west,
and those from all the way down the Nile!”
13 Heavens, raise the roof! Earth, wake the dead!
Mountains, send up cheers!
God has comforted his people.
He has tenderly nursed his beaten-up, beaten-down people.
14 But Zion said, “I don’t get it. God has left me.
My Master has forgotten I even exist.”
15-18 “Can a mother forget the infant at her breast,
walk away from the baby she bore?
But even if mothers forget,
I’d never forget you—never.
Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.
The walls you’re rebuilding are never out of my sight.
Your builders are faster than your wreckers.
The demolition crews are gone for good.
Look up, look around, look well!
See them all gathering, coming to you?
As sure as I am the living God”—God’s Decree—
“you’re going to put them on like so much jewelry,
you’re going to use them to dress up like a bride.
19-21 “And your ruined land?
Your devastated, decimated land?
Filled with more people than you know what to do with!
And your barbarian enemies, a fading memory.
The children born in your exile will be saying,
‘It’s getting too crowded here. I need more room.’
And you’ll say to yourself,
‘Where on earth did these children come from?
I lost everything, had nothing, was exiled and penniless.
So who reared these children?
How did these children get here?’”
22-23 The Master, God, says:
“Look! I signal to the nations,
I raise my flag to summon the people.
Here they’ll come: women carrying your little boys in their arms,
men carrying your little girls on their shoulders.
Kings will be your babysitters,
princesses will be your nursemaids.
They’ll offer to do all your drudge work—
scrub your floors, do your laundry.
You’ll know then that I am God.
No one who hopes in me ever regrets it.”
24-26 Can plunder be retrieved from a giant,
prisoners of war gotten back from a tyrant?
But God says, “Even if a giant grips the plunder
and a tyrant holds my people prisoner,
I’m the one who’s on your side,
defending your cause, rescuing your children.
And your enemies, crazed and desperate, will turn on themselves,
killing each other in a frenzy of self-destruction.
Then everyone will know that I, God,
have saved you—I, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Who Out There Fears God?
50 1-3 God says:
“Can you produce your mother’s divorce papers
proving I got rid of her?
Can you produce a receipt
proving I sold you?
Of course you can’t.
It’s your sins that put you here,
your wrongs that got you shipped out.
So why didn’t anyone come when I knocked?
Why didn’t anyone answer when I called?
Do you think I’ve forgotten how to help?
Am I so decrepit that I can’t deliver?
I’m as powerful as ever,
and can reverse what I once did:
I can dry up the sea with a word,
turn river water into desert sand,
And leave the fish stinking in the sun,
stranded on dry land . . .
Turn all the lights out in the sky
and pull down the curtain.”
* * *
4-9 The Master, God, has given me
a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
and I didn’t go back to sleep,
didn’t pull the covers back over my head.
I followed orders,
stood there and took it while they beat me,
held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
confident that I’ll never regret this.
My champion is right here.
Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
socks and shirts, fodder for moths!
* * *
10-11 Who out there fears God,
actually listens to the voice of his servant?
For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going,
anyone groping in the dark,
Here’s what: Trust in God.
Lean on your God!
But if all you’re after is making trouble,
playing with fire,
Go ahead and see where it gets you.
Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames,
But don’t expect me to just stand there and watch.
I’ll hold your feet to those flames.
Committed to Seeking God
51 1-3 “Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living
and committed to seeking God.
Ponder the rock from which you were cut,
the quarry from which you were dug.
Yes, ponder Abraham, your father,
and Sarah, who bore you.
Think of it! One solitary man when I called him,
but once I blessed him, he multiplied.
Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion,
comfort all her mounds of ruins.
I’ll transform her dead ground into Eden,
her moonscape into the garden of God,
A place filled with exuberance and laughter,
thankful voices and melodic songs.
4-6 “Pay attention, my people.
Listen to me, nations.
Revelation flows from me.
My decisions light up the world.
My deliverance arrives on the run,
my salvation right on time.
I’ll bring justice to the peoples.
Even faraway islands will look to me
and take hope in my saving power.
Look up at the skies,
ponder the earth under your feet.
The skies will fade out like smoke,
the earth will wear out like work pants,
and the people will die off like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my setting-things-right will never be obsolete.
7-8 “Listen now, you who know right from wrong,
you who hold my teaching inside you:
Pay no attention to insults, and when mocked
don’t let it get you down.
Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten,
from brains that are termite-ridden,
But my setting-things-right lasts,
my salvation goes on and on and on.”
9-11 Wake up, wake up, flex your muscles, God!
Wake up as in the old days, in the long ago.
Didn’t you once make mincemeat of Rahab,
dispatch the old chaos-dragon?
And didn’t you once dry up the sea,
the powerful waters of the deep,
And then made the bottom of the ocean a road
for the redeemed to walk across?
In the same way God’s ransomed will come back,
come back to Zion cheering, shouting,
Joy eternal wreathing their heads,
exuberant ecstasies transporting them—
and not a sign of moans or groans.
What Are You Afraid of—or Who?
12-16 “I, I’m the One comforting you.
What are you afraid of—or who?
Some man or woman who’ll soon be dead?
Some poor wretch destined for dust?
You’ve forgotten me, God, who made you,
who unfurled the skies, who founded the earth.
And here you are, quaking like an aspen
before the tantrums of a tyrant
who thinks he can kick down the world.
But what will come of the tantrums?
The victims will be released before you know it.
They’re not going to die.
They’re not even going to go hungry.
For I am God, your very own God,
who stirs up the sea and whips up the waves,
I teach you how to talk, word by word,
and personally watch over you,
Even while I’m unfurling the skies,
setting earth on solid foundations,
and greeting Zion: ‘Welcome, my people!’”
17-20 So wake up! Rub the sleep from your eyes!
Up on your feet, Jerusalem!
You’ve drunk the cup God handed you,
the strong drink of his anger.
You drank it down to the last drop,
staggered and collapsed, dead-drunk.
And nobody to help you home,
no one among your friends or children
to take you by the hand and put you in bed.
You’ve been hit with a double dose of trouble
—does anyone care?
Assault and battery, hunger and death
—will anyone comfort?
Your sons and daughters have passed out,
strewn in the streets like stunned rabbits,
Sleeping off the strong drink of God’s anger,
the rage of your God.
21-23 Therefore listen, please,
you with your splitting headaches,
You who are nursing the hangovers
that didn’t come from drinking wine.
Your Master, your God, has something to say,
your God has taken up his people’s case:
“Look, I’ve taken back the drink that sent you reeling.
No more drinking from that jug of my anger!
I’ve passed it over to your abusers to drink, those who ordered you,
‘Down on the ground so we can walk all over you!’
And you had to do it. Flat on the ground,
you were the dirt under their feet.”
God Is Leading You Out of Here
52 1-2 Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots, Zion!
Dress up in your Sunday best, Jerusalem, holy city!
Those who want no part of God have been culled out.
They won’t be coming along.
Brush off the dust and get to your feet, captive Jerusalem!
Throw off your chains, captive daughter of Zion!
3 God says, “You were sold for nothing. You’re being bought back for nothing.”
4-6 Again, the Master, God, says, “Early on, my people went to Egypt and lived, strangers in the land. At the other end, Assyria oppressed them. And now, what have I here?” God’s Decree. “My people are hauled off again for no reason at all. Tyrants on the warpath, whooping it up, and day after day, incessantly, my reputation blackened. Now it’s time that my people know who I am, what I’m made of—yes, that I have something to say. Here I am!”
7-10 How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the messenger bringing good news,
Breaking the news that all’s well,
proclaiming good times, announcing salvation,
telling Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Voices! Listen! Your scouts are shouting, thunderclap shouts,
shouting in joyful unison.
They see with their own eyes
God coming back to Zion.
Break into song! Boom it out, ruins of Jerusalem:
“God has comforted his people!
He’s redeemed Jerusalem!”
God has rolled up his sleeves.
All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm.
Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other,
sees him at work, doing his salvation work.
11-12 Out of here! Out of here! Leave this place!
Don’t look back. Don’t contaminate yourselves with plunder.
Just leave, but leave clean. Purify yourselves
in the process of worship, carrying the holy vessels of God.
But you don’t have to be in a hurry.
You’re not running from anybody!
God is leading you out of here,
and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.
It Was Our Pains He Carried
13-15 “Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn’t begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn’t even look human—
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.”
53 Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
2-6 The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
7-9 He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.
10 Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
11-12 Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.