The Word Made Fresh
1But now listen, my servant Jacob;
Israel, whom I have chosen.
2This is what the LORD says, the One who made you,
the One who shaped you in the womb will help you.
Don’t be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
my Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
3I will pour water on the parched land
and send streams out over the dry ground:
I will give my spirit to your children,
and I will bless your descendants.
4They shall rise up like the green grass,
and like willow trees beside the streams.
5One will say, “I belong to the LORD,”
and another will be given the name Jacob.
Still others will write “The LORD’s” on their hands
and will be called Israel.
6This is what the LORD, the king of Israel and its Redeemer –
this is what the LORD Almighty says:
I am the first and the last.
There is no other god besides me.
7Who is like me? Let them say so.
Let them declare it in my presence.
Who has told from ancient times what is to come?
Let them come forward and reveal the future.
8Don’t be afraid. Have no fear.
Haven’t I declared it to you since ancient times?
You are my witnesses; is there any god other than me?
There is no other Rock; I know of none.
9Those who make idols are nothing. The things they think are important come to nothing. Those who claim to be witnesses neither know nor see, and they will be ashamed. 10Who would bother to make a “god” or an idol that can’t do anything? 11Everyone who worships it will be ashamed. The ones who made it are merely human. Let them come together and stand up for what they claim. They will be terrified because they will all be disgraced.
12An ironsmith selects the material and works it over burning coals, using a hammer to shape it with his own hands. He becomes hungry and weak. He has no water to drink and becomes faint.
13A carpenter stretches out his line and marks it, then shapes it with a plane, marks it with a stylus and checks it with a compass. He makes it to resemble a human being, with human beauty, to be placed in a shrine. 14He selects a cedar or a holm tree or an oak and lets it grow among the other trees in the forest; or he plants a cedar and lets the rain nourish it. 15Then he’ll use it as fuel for a fire. He’ll take part of it to warm himself, and then bake bread over it. Then he makes a god and worships it! He makes a carved image and bows down before it! 16Then he’ll burn half of it in the fire he has built and roast his meat over it and sit down to eat it until he is satisfied. He also warms himself over the fire and says, “Oh how warm the fire is. I can feel it!” 17Then he takes what’s left of it and shapes it into an idol, his god. He bows down to it and worships it. He even prays to it and says, “You are my god; rescue me!”
18They neither know nor comprehend because their eyes are closed, and they can’t see. They can’t understand, either, because their minds are closed. 19Nobody thinks it through, or they would say, “I burned half of it in the fire. Then I baked bread on its coals, roasted meat and ate it. Now what should I do? Make the rest of it into a false and awful thing and then bow down to it?” 20Such a man feeds on ashes. His mind is deluded and leads him astray and he can’t save himself or even bring himself to admit, “Isn’t this thing in my hand a lie?”
21Remember this, Jacob and Israel. You are my servant.
I made you, and I will not forget you.
22I have swept your sins away like a cloud, or like the morning mist.
Come back to me; I have redeemed you.
23Sing, O heavens! The LORD has done it.
Shout, O depths of the earth,
and break into a song, you mountains
and forests – every tree in you!
For the LORD has made Jacob brand new
and will be praised in Israel.
24The LORD, your Redeemer,
the One who formed you in the womb, says this:
I am the LORD who made everything.
I alone stretched out the sky
and spread out the earth by myself.
25I frustrate the predictions of liars
and make fools of prognosticators.
I turn the wise away
and turn their knowledge into foolishness.
26I stand behind what my servant says
and fulfill the things his messengers predict.
I say of Jerusalem, “It shall again be inhabited,”
and of the cities of Judah, “They shall be rebuilt,”
and I will rebuild their ruins.
27I say to the deep waters, “Dry up, and I will empty your rivers as well.”
I say of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd,
and he shall do everything I say.”
I am the One who says of Jerusalem, “It shall be rebuilt,”
and of the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”
1-5: Isaiah is certain that God is going to restore Israel, and in his prophetic vision hears God tenderly comforting them, claiming them from birth, promising refreshing blessing so pronounced that everyone would want to claim to be part of God’s people. Jeshurun is a poetic name for Israel, possibly related to the word Moses gave the people (Deuteronomy 32:15, 33:5, 33:26).
6-8: This is the first occurrence of the title “the King of Israel and its Redeemer,” and through the centuries has inspired much speculation. Could it be a reference to the future Christ? Many Christian commentators have so concluded. It is likely that Isaiah understood it as a reference to the coming David-like king mentioned earlier. Note that once again an emphasis is placed on God’s having announced all these things “from of old,” and that is one of the primary differences Isaiah sees between the Holy One of Israel and the other popular gods and idols worshiped by people in that part of the world.
9-11: These verses begin an aside in prose. God summons the makers of idols to take the witness stand.
12-17: The idol maker’s trade is mocked. Part of the tree that is used to make the idol is also used to provide fuel for the fire that cooks his food. The fire also provides warmth. The idol is worthless, and that part of the tree is wasted. At the least it could have warmed his hands!
18-20: The idol maker is incapable of seeing that what he is doing makes no sense whatsoever.
21-22: The poem that left off at verse 8 is continued. Israel is forgiven and not forgotten.
23: Here is a spontaneous bursting forth of praise for the redemption God will give, but in the past tense as if it were already given.
24-28: The theme of God’s sovereignty is picked up again, and an emphasis is placed on fulfilling what has been said through God’s servants. Idols can’t do that, you know. The mention of Cyrus, the Babylonian king, comes as a surprise, since he hasn’t been mentioned since the book of Ezra. Cyrus is styled here as God’s “shepherd.” The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, accomplished with a grant from King Cyrus, is, of course, the major theme of the book of Ezra.
We are often guilty of imagining that there are things of this world that can make our lives meaningful and valuable. The Bible calls these things “gods,” or “idols.” We are already meaningful and valuable to God who made us, and that is cause for rejoicing.