49 Everyone, listen, even you foreign nations across the sea. The Lord chose me and gave me a name before I was born. 2 He made my words pierce like a sharp sword or a pointed arrow; he kept me safely hidden in the palm of his hand. 3 The Lord said to me, “Israel, you are my servant; and because of you I will be highly honored.”
4 I said to myself, “I’m completely worn out; my time has been wasted. But I did it for the Lord God, and he will reward me.”
5 Even before I was born, the Lord God chose me to serve him and to lead back the people of Israel. So the Lord has honored me and made me strong.
6 Now the Lord says to me, “It isn’t enough for you to be merely my servant. You must do more than lead back survivors from the tribes of Israel. I have placed you here as a light for other nations; you must take my saving power to everyone on earth.”
The Lord Will Rescue His People
7 Israel, I am the holy Lord God, the one who rescues you. You are slaves of rulers and of a nation who despises you.[a] Now this is what I promise: Kings and rulers will honor you by kneeling at your feet. You can trust me! I am your Lord, the holy God of Israel, and you are my chosen ones.
The Lord Will Lead His People Home
8 This is what the Lord says: I will answer your prayers because I have set a time when I will help by coming to save you. I have chosen you to take my promise of hope to other nations.[b] You will rebuild the country from its ruins, then people will come and settle there. 9 You will set prisoners free from dark dungeons to see the light of day.
On their way home, they will find plenty to eat, even on barren hills. 10 They won’t go hungry or get thirsty; they won’t be bothered by the scorching sun or hot desert winds. I will be merciful while leading them along to streams of water. 11 I will level the mountains and make roads. 12 Then my people will return from distant lands in the north and the west and from the city of Syene.[c]
The Lord’s Mercy
13 Tell the heavens and the earth to celebrate and sing; command every mountain to join in the song. The Lord’s people have suffered, but he has shown mercy and given them comfort.
14 The people of Zion said, “The Lord has turned away and forgotten us.”
15 The Lord answered, “Could a mother forget a child who nurses at her breast? Could she fail to love an infant who came from her own body? Even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you. 16 A picture of your city is drawn on my hand. You are always in my thoughts!
17 “Your city will be built faster than it was destroyed[d]— those who attacked it will retreat and leave. 18 Look around! You will see your people coming home. As surely as I live, I, the Lord, promise that your city with its people will be as lovely as a bride wearing her jewelry.”
Jerusalem’s Bright Future
19 Jerusalem is now in ruins! Nothing is left of the city. But it will be rebuilt and soon overcrowded; its cruel enemies will be gone far away.
20 Jerusalem is a woman whose children were born while she was in deep sorrow[e] over the loss of her husband. Now those children will come and seek room in the crowded city, 21 and Jerusalem will ask, “Am I really their mother? How could I have given birth when I was still mourning in a foreign land? Who raised these children? Where have they come from?”
22 The Lord God says: “I will soon give a signal for the nations to return your sons and your daughters to the arms of Jerusalem. 23 The kings and queens of those nations where they were raised will come and bow down. They will take care of you just like a slave taking care of a child. Then you will know that I am the Lord. You won’t be disappointed if you trust me.”
The Lord Is on Our Side
24 Is it possible to rescue victims from someone strong and cruel?[f] 25 But the Lord has promised to fight on our side and to rescue our children from those strong and violent enemies. 26 He will make those cruel people dine on their own flesh and get drunk from drinking their own blood. Then everyone will know that the Lord is our Savior; the powerful God of Israel has rescued his people.
The Lord’s Power To Punish
50 The Lord says, “Children, I didn’t divorce your mother or sell you to pay debts; I divorced her and sold you because of your sins. 2 I came and called out, but you didn’t answer. Have I lost my power to rescue and save? At my command oceans and rivers turn into deserts; fish rot and stink for lack of water. 3 I make the sky turn dark like the sackcloth you wear at funerals.”
God’s Servant Must Suffer
4 The Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary. Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching; 5 he made me willing to listen and not rebel or run away.
6 I let them beat my back and pull out my beard. I didn’t turn aside when they insulted me and spit in my face. 7 But the Lord God keeps me from being disgraced. So I refuse to give up, because I know God will never let me down.
8 My protector is nearby; no one can stand here to accuse me of wrong. 9 The Lord God will help me and prove I am innocent. My accusers will wear out like moth-eaten clothes.
10 None of you respect the Lord or obey his servant. You walk in the dark instead of the light; you don’t trust the name of the Lord your God.[g] 11 Go ahead and walk in the light of the fires you have set.[h] But with his own hand, the Lord will punish you and make you suffer.
The Lord Will Bring Comfort
51 If you want to do right and obey the Lord, follow Abraham’s example. He was the rock from which you were chipped. 2 God chose Abraham and Sarah to be your ancestors. The Lord blessed Abraham, and from that one man came many descendants.
3 Though Zion is in ruins, the Lord will bring comfort, and the city will be as lovely as the garden of Eden that he provided. Then Zion will celebrate; it will be thankful and sing joyful songs.
The Lord’s Victory Will Last
4 The Lord says: You are my people and nation! So pay attention to me. My teaching will cause justice to shine like a light for every nation. 5 Those who live across the sea are eagerly waiting for me to rescue them. I am strong and ready; soon I will come to save and to rule all nations.
6 Look closely at the sky! Stare at the earth. The sky will vanish like smoke; the earth will wear out like clothes. Everyone on this earth will die like flies. But my victory will last; my saving power never ends.
7 If you want to do right and to obey my teaching with all your heart, then pay close attention. Don’t be discouraged when others insult you and say hurtful things. 8 They will be eaten away like a moth-eaten coat. But my victory will last; my saving power will never end.
A Prayer for the Lord’s Help
9 Wake up! Do something, Lord. Be strong and ready. Wake up! Do what you did for our people long ago. Didn’t you chop up Rahab[i] the monster? 10 Didn’t you dry up the deep sea and make a road for your people to follow safely across? 11 Now those you have rescued will return to Jerusalem, singing on their way. They will be crowned with great happiness, never again to be burdened with sadness and sorrow.
The Lord Gives Hope
12 I am the Lord, the one who encourages you. Why are you afraid of mere humans? They dry up and die like grass.
13 I spread out the heavens and laid foundations for the earth. But you have forgotten me, your Lord and Creator. All day long you were afraid of those who were angry and hoped to abuse you. Where are they now?
14 Everyone crying out in pain will be quickly set free; they will be rescued from the power of death and never go hungry. 15 I will help them because I am your God, the Lord All-Powerful, who makes the ocean roar.
16 I have told you what to say, and I will keep you safe in the palm of my hand. I spread out the heavens and laid foundations for the earth. Now I say, “Jerusalem, your people are mine.”
A Warning to Jerusalem
17 Jerusalem, wake up! Stand up! You’ve drunk too much from the cup filled with the Lord’s anger. You have swallowed every drop, and you can’t walk straight. 18 Not one of your many children is there to guide you or to offer a helping hand. 19 You have been destroyed by war and by famine; I cannot comfort you.[j] 20 The Lord your God is angry, and on every street corner your children lie helpless, like deer trapped in nets.
21 You are in trouble and drunk, but not from wine. So pay close attention 22 to the Lord your God, who defends you and says, “I have taken from your hands the cup filled with my anger that made you drunk. You will never be forced to drink it again. 23 Instead I will give it to your brutal enemies, who treated you like dirt and walked all over you.”
Jerusalem Can Celebrate
52 Jerusalem, wake up! Stand up and be strong. Holy city of Zion, dress in your best clothes. Those foreigners who ruined your sacred city won’t bother you again. 2 Zion, rise from the dirt! Free yourself from the rope around your neck.
Suffering Will End
3 The Lord says: My people, you were sold, but not for money; now you will be set free, but not for a payment. 4 Long ago you went to Egypt where you lived as foreigners. Then Assyria was cruel to you, 5 and now another nation[k] has taken you prisoner for no reason at all. Your leaders groan with pain,[l] and day after day my own name is cursed. 6 My people, you will learn who I am and who is speaking because I am here.
A Message of Hope for Jerusalem
7 What a beautiful sight! On the mountains a messenger announces to Jerusalem, “Good news! You’re saved. There will be peace. Your God is now King.” 8 Everyone on guard duty, sing and celebrate! Look! You can see the Lord returning to Zion. 9 Jerusalem, rise from the ruins! Join in the singing. The Lord has given comfort to his people; he comes to your rescue. 10 The Lord has shown all nations his mighty strength; now everyone will see the saving power of our God.
A Command To Leave Babylon
11 Leave the city of Babylon! Don’t touch anything filthy. Wash yourselves. Be ready to carry back everything sacred that belongs to the Lord. 12 You won’t need to run. No one is chasing you. The Lord God of Israel will lead and protect you from enemy attacks.
The Suffering Servant
13 The Lord says: My servant will succeed! He will be given great praise and the highest honors. 14 Many were horrified at what happened to him.[m] But everyone who saw him was even more horrified because he suffered until he no longer looked human.[n] 15 My servant will make nations worthy to worship me;[o] kings will be silent as they bow in wonder.[p] They will see and think about things they have never seen or thought about before.
What God’s Servant Did for Us
53 Has anyone believed us or seen the mighty power of the Lord in action? 2 Like a young plant or a root that sprouts in dry ground, the servant grew up obeying the Lord. He wasn’t some handsome king. Nothing about the way he looked made him attractive to us. 3 He was hated and rejected; his life was filled with sorrow and terrible suffering. No one wanted to look at him. We despised him and said, “He is a nobody!”
4 He suffered and endured great pain for us, but we thought his suffering was punishment from God. 5 He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well. 6 All of us were like sheep that had wandered off. We had each gone our own way, but the Lord gave him the punishment we deserved.
7 He was painfully abused, but he did not complain. He was silent like a lamb being led to the butcher, as quiet as a sheep having its wool cut off.
8 He was condemned to death without a fair trial. Who could have imagined what would happen to him? His life was taken away because of the sinful things my people[q] had done. 9 He wasn’t dishonest or violent, but he was buried in a tomb of cruel and rich people.[r]
10 The Lord decided his servant would suffer as a sacrifice to take away the sin and guilt of others. Now the servant will live to see his own descendants.[s] He did everything the Lord had planned.
11 By suffering, the servant will learn the true meaning of obeying the Lord. Although he is innocent, he will take the punishment for the sins of others, so that many of them will no longer be guilty. 12 The Lord will reward him with honor and power for sacrificing his life. Others thought he was a sinner, but he suffered for our sins and asked God to forgive us.
49.7You. . . you: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
49.8my. . . nations: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
49.12Syene: The Dead Sea Scrolls; the Standard Hebrew Text “Sinim.” The reference may be to modern Aswan, a city in southern Egypt.
49.17Your city. . . destroyed: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
49.20whose children. . . sorrow: These “children” are Jews who were born in foreign countries during the time that Jerusalem was in ruins. Jerusalem probably stands for all the cities in Judah that were destroyed by the Babylonians.
49.24cruel: The Dead Sea Scrolls and two ancient translations; the Standard Hebrew Text “good.”
50.10God: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 10.
50.11Go. . . set: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
51.9Rahab: This may refer to Egypt at the time of the exodus.
51.19I. . . you: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
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