The Word Made Fresh
1But now this is what the LORD has to say –
the LORD who created you, Jacob,
the LORD who shaped you, Israel.
Don’t be afraid. I have redeemed you.
I have called your name and you belong to me.
2When you pass through the waters I will be with you.
When you cross the rivers, they shall not sweep you away.
When you walk through the fire it will not burn you,
and its flames shall not destroy you.
3I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I will offer Egypt as your ransom,
and give Cush and Sheba in exchange for you,
4because you are precious to me, and I honor you and love you.
I will give other peoples in exchange for you,
other nations in return for your life.
5Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
I will bring your descendants from the east,
and will gather you from the west.
6I will tell the north to give them up.
I will command the south to surrender my sons and daughters
from the far corners of the earth.
7I will claim everyone who is called by my name,
who was shaped and created for my glory.
8So, bring me those who are blind, though they have eyes,
and those who are deaf, though they have ears.
9Gather all the nations together and assemble all the peoples.
Did anyone of them tell you about this,
or of the things that have already passed?
Let them gather witnesses to prove it.
Let them hear this and declare it is true.
10The LORD says, “You are my witnesses.
You are the helpers I have chosen.”
I tell you this so that you may know and believe me,
and understand who I am.
No god existed before me,
nor shall ever be after me.
11I alone am the LORD, and there is no one to save you but me.
12I made declarations, and I rescued, and I made pronouncements
when no other god was with you.
So, you are my witnesses. Thus says the LORD.
13I alone am God and will be from now on.
No one can take you away from me,
and no one can hinder my plans.
14This is what the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, has to say:
“For your sake I will approach Babylon.
I will break down all their protection
and turn their shouting into grieving.
15I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel’s creator, your King.”
16This is what the LORD has said,
the LORD who makes a way, a path, through the deep waters.
17“I am the One who brought forth chariots and horses,
soldiers and warriors, and they lay down and cannot rise.
They are done for, snuffed out like a candle.
18Forget about the past. The things of old are gone.
19I am about to perform a new thing;
now it is coming into view; don’t you see it?
I will make a road in the wilderness
and put rivers in the desert.
20The wild beasts – including the jackals and ostriches – will honor me,
because I put pools of water in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert
so that my people will have plenty to drink.
21They are the people I formed for myself
so that they might praise me.’’
22But you didn’t call on me, Jacob.
You became tired of me, Israel.
23You haven’t brought me your sheep as burnt offerings.
You haven’t honored me with your sacrifices,
even though the offerings I demanded did not burden you,
nor did offerings of frankincense weary you.
24You have not spent your money on sweet reeds for me,
or honored me with the fat of your sacrifices.
Instead, your sins have been my burden,
and your offenses have wearied me.
25I am the One who blots out all your transgressions.
For my own sake I will not remember your sins.
26Bring your complaints and let us go to trial.
Put forth your arguments and see if you are proved right.
27Your first ancestor sinned against me.
Your own teachers misinterpreted me.
28That is why I disgraced your sanctuary keepers,
and gave Jacob over to destruction,
and Israel to scorn.
1-7: But Israel has suffered enough, and now God is going to begin the work of restoration. Verse 2 influenced the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation” – “When through the deep waters I cause thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow. The flames will not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.” Exiles from east and west will return.
8-13: The “people who are blind” and the “people who are deaf” are references to Israel. They are brought forth along with all the nations. The other nations are challenged to render evidence that any of their gods have “foretold to us the former things.” Israel, on the other hand, can give such testimony. There is no other god.
14-21: God declares that Babylon will be defeated, and Israel will be restored. God will “do a new thing,” something that the pagan “gods” could not do – declare God’s praise.
22-24: Israel stopped calling on the LORD. They stopped bringing sacrifices or burning incense. Instead, because of their sin they became a burden to God.
25-28: God says that their sins are now disregarded. So, he invites the trial to begin. Give it your best shot, he says.
God’s restoration of Israel is really a description of the way God seeks to redeem every sinner. The “enemy” – those people or those actions or those circumstances – that drew us away from God must be defeated. That is, we must learn to recognize those things in our lives that dishonor God so that we can live our lives more in keeping with God’s will.