Proud to Be Called Israel
44 1-5 “But for now, dear servant Jacob, listen—
yes, you, Israel, my personal choice.
God who made you has something to say to you;
the God who formed you in the womb wants to help you.
Don’t be afraid, dear servant Jacob,
Jeshurun, the one I chose.
For I will pour water on the thirsty ground
and send streams coursing through the parched earth.
I will pour my Spirit into your descendants
and my blessing on your children.
They shall sprout like grass on the prairie,
like willows alongside creeks.
This one will say, ‘I am God’s,’
and another will go by the name Jacob;
That one will write on his hand ‘God’s property’—
and be proud to be called Israel.”
6-8 God, King of Israel,
your Redeemer, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says:
“I’m first, I’m last, and everything in between.
I’m the only God there is.
Who compares with me?
Speak up. See if you measure up.
From the beginning, who else has always announced what’s coming?
So what is coming next? Anybody want to venture a try?
Don’t be afraid, and don’t worry:
Haven’t I always kept you informed, told you what was going on?
You’re my eyewitnesses:
Have you ever come across a God, a real God, other than me?
There’s no Rock like me that I know of.”
Lover of Emptiness
9-11 All those who make no-god idols don’t amount to a thing, and what they work so hard at making is nothing. Their little puppet-gods see nothing and know nothing—they’re total embarrassments! Who would bother making gods that can’t do anything, that can’t “god”? Watch all the no-god worshipers hide their faces in shame. Watch the no-god makers slink off humiliated when their idols fail them. Get them out here in the open. Make them face God-reality.
12 The blacksmith makes his no-god, works it over in his forge, hammering it on his anvil—such hard work! He works away, fatigued with hunger and thirst.
13-17 The woodworker draws up plans for his no-god, traces it on a block of wood. He shapes it with chisels and planes into human shape—a beautiful woman, a handsome man, ready to be placed in a chapel. He first cuts down a cedar, or maybe picks out a pine or oak, and lets it grow strong in the forest, nourished by the rain. Then it can serve a double purpose: Part he uses as firewood for keeping warm and baking bread; from the other part he makes a god that he worships—carves it into a god shape and prays before it. With half he makes a fire to warm himself and barbecue his supper. He eats his fill and sits back satisfied with his stomach full and his feet warmed by the fire: “Ah, this is the life.” And he still has half left for a god, made to his personal design—a handy, convenient no-god to worship whenever so inclined. Whenever the need strikes him he prays to it, “Save me. You’re my god.”
18-19 Pretty stupid, wouldn’t you say? Don’t they have eyes in their heads? Are their brains working at all? Doesn’t it occur to them to say, “Half of this tree I used for firewood: I baked bread, roasted meat, and enjoyed a good meal. And now I’ve used the rest to make a repulsive no-god. Here I am praying to a stick of wood!”
20 This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can’t even look at what he’s doing, can’t even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, “This is crazy.”
* * *
21-22 “Remember these things, O Jacob.
Take it seriously, Israel, that you’re my servant.
I made you, shaped you: You’re my servant.
O Israel, I’ll never forget you.
I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings.
There’s nothing left of your sins.
Come back to me, come back.
I’ve redeemed you.”
23 High heavens, sing!
God has done it.
Deep earth, shout!
And you mountains, sing!
A forest choir of oaks and pines and cedars!
God has redeemed Jacob.
God’s glory is on display in Israel.
24 God, your Redeemer,
who shaped your life in your mother’s womb, says:
“I am God. I made all that is.
With no help from you I spread out the skies
and laid out the earth.”
25-28 He makes the magicians look ridiculous
and turns fortunetellers into jokes.
He makes the experts look trivial
and their latest knowledge look silly.
But he backs the word of his servant
and confirms the counsel of his messengers.
He says to Jerusalem, “Be inhabited,”
and to the cities of Judah, “Be rebuilt,”
and to the ruins, “I raise you up.”
He says to Ocean, “Dry up.
I’m drying up your rivers.”
He says to Cyrus, “My shepherd—
everything I want, you’ll do it.”
He says to Jerusalem, “Be built,”
and to the Temple, “Be established.”