Isaiah 41

The Word Made Fresh

1Be silent and listen to what I say, coastlands.
Let the nations renew their strength
and then let them approach and speak.
Let us join together for guidance.
2Who roused this victor from the east?
Who has summoned him to service?
The One who gives other nations into their hand
and tramples kings underfoot;
the One whose sword diminishes them to dust,
and whose bow reduces them to stubble.
3God pursues them and passes on without danger,
with feet barely touching the path.
4Who has done this, summoning the nations from their beginning?
It was I, the LORD, the first and the last.
5The coastlands are afraid because they have seen,
and the far corners of the earth are trembling.
They have come, drawing near.
6They help one another, saying, “Have courage!”
7The artists encourage the goldsmith,
and the one who smooths with the hammer
urges on the one who strikes the anvil,
and says of the soldering, “It is good!”
Then they fasten it with nails to make it immovable.
8But you, Israel, are my servant.
I have chosen Jacob, the descendant of my friend Abraham.
9And you whom I gathered from the far corners of the earth,
you are my servants. I chose you and have not dismissed you.
10Don’t be afraid: I am with you. Have no fear: I am your God.
I will strengthen and help you.
I will support you with my right hand of victory.

11All who are stirred up against you shall be shamed and disgraced.
Those who fight you shall be as nothing, and they shall perish.
12You will seek out those who are against you,
but you won’t find them.
Those who make war with you won’t amount to anything.
13I am the LORD your God. I hold your right hand.
I tell you not to be afraid, because I will be on your side.

14Don’t be afraid, Jacob, though you are but a worm.
You people of Israel, have no fear,
for I will be on your side, says the LORD.
I, the Holy One of Israel, am your Redeemer.
15I will turn you into a threshing implement –
with sharp new teeth,
and you shall thresh the mountains until they are level,
and you shall turn the hills into rubble.
16You shall toss them into the wind,
and the wind will carry them away.
The storm will scatter them.
Then you will be joyful in the LORD,
and you will glorify the Holy One of Israel.

17Whenever the poor and needy search for water and find none,
and their tongues are parched with thirst,
I the LORD will answer them:
I am the God of Israel, and I will not forsake them.
18I will cause rivers to flow on the barren heights,
and fountains in the valleys.
I will make the wilderness flow with water,
and the dry lands will be springs.
19I will plant cedar, acacia, myrtle, and olive trees in the desert.
I will grow cypress trees there, together with plane and pine.
20Then everyone will see and know.
Everyone will study and understand
that the hand of the LORD has done it;
the Holy One of Israel has created it.

21So, make your case says the LORD.
Bring your evidence, says the King of Jacob.
22Bring it and then tell what will happen.
And tell what things long ago really mean
so that we might study them and know what is to be.
Or simply tell what is going to happen.
23Tell us the future so that we will know you are gods.
Do good. Or do harm, to make us be afraid and to terrify us.
24Of course, you are nothing, and your work amounts to nothing.
Whoever stands with you is foolish.

25I prompted one from the north, and he has arrived.
He was summoned by name from the rising sun.
He shall walk on other rulers as though walking on pavement.
It shall be like a potter treading clay.
26Who told about this from the beginning? We want to know!
Who knew all this from beforehand? We want to say he is right!
But no one predicted it. No one announced it.
And no one heard your words.
27I first declared it to Zion.
I gave Jerusalem a messenger of good news.
28But when I search, I find no one.
There is no advisor who can answer me when I ask.
29They are all fakes! Their labors amount to nothing,
and their pronouncements are nothing but hot air.


1: God convenes court to announce decisions regarding Jerusalem. The coastlands represent the witnesses and are called to come forward and state their case against the accused.

2-10: God renders the judgment: a “victor from the east” (Babylon) is summoned. The coastlands tremble but God is for Israel and tells the people not to fear. Verse 10 is the basis for a verse of a familiar hymn: “How Firm a Foundation.” “Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed for I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen and help thee and cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

11-13: The enemies of Jerusalem will threaten, but God is holding the city’s hand and says, “Do no fear, I will help you.”

14-16: Jacob (used here as a poetic name for Israel) will be made into a threshing sledge to thresh the mountains and hills — thrusting back their enemies — and winnow them. Winnowing is the process of tossing grain into the air to separate the good from the bad. The wind blows away the worthless husk, letting the grain fall back to the ground. This is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit “blowing” away their enemies.

17-20: The “poor and needy” are the Israelites. God will respond to their need so that “all may see and know” that God has done it.

21-24: The gods of the other nations are challenged to present their case and show how things in the past have led to what is happening in the present. Of course, these gods can lay no claim on anything that is happening. Only the LORD can show how the promises made in the past have been kept. These other “gods” are nothing, and their work is nothing, and those who worship them are fools.

25-29: The “one from the north” is Cyrus, the Persian king who conquered Babylon and let the exiles who had been taken from Jerusalem and elsewhere return home. Not only are the other “gods” unable to answer the charges against them, but God also controls this pagan king, one who should be under their influence. That he is not proves again that they are “a delusion.”


Isaiah makes these pronouncements at a time in their history when Israel has been trodden underfoot by one enemy after another. God’s insistence that Israel will be restored is a sign for us as well – a sign that God will never forsake those who have faith. God may let us suffer the consequences of our foolishness, but will never discard us, and will never forsake us. We can depend on God’s love.