17 And when people thirst, when those poor souls with parched tongues
look in vain for something to drink,
I, the Eternal, the God of Israel, won’t leave them to suffer. I will respond
18 By making the hard, brown hills sparkle with streams of fresh water
and causing valleys to come alive with springs.
I will see that gentle pools wait on the desert floor for the weary traveler,
and great fountains bubble up from dry ground;
19 In the desert, I will plant cedars, woody acacias,
myrtles, and olive trees.
I will establish great cypresses to flourish in the desert places,
plant oaks and pine trees side by side.
20 They’ll see all this and understand. They’ll ponder together
and come to know that it is the power of the Eternal One that produced this.
They will know that the Holy One of Israel created it.
21 Eternal One: Present your case. Lay out your arguments
and call your witnesses to appear before the King of Jacob.
God and Israel now become judge and jury as the nations bring their idols and make the case that their handmade gods can indeed predict the future.
22-23 Come on and bring your idols. Now tell us what is to come,
and while you’re at it, tell us what happened before.
Can you explain to us so that we, too, may understand?
Go ahead, tell us what the future holds.
Surely you can, if you are truly gods. Do good, or do bad.
Just do something—anything—to amaze or frighten us.
24 Sure enough, you are not gods; you are nothing at all.
You have nothing to show for your work or yourselves.
Fools! Only fools would choose you to be their god. Detestable.
25 Eternal One: I, the Lord, I have called up for service
one from the north, and he comes from the rising sun
and he will invoke My name.
He will render rulers like mud under his shoes,
trampling them down like so much clay.
26 Did any of you gods tell us about this long ago, so we would know?
Did any of you indicate to us that we might agree, “He is right”?
No, no one told us. No one made an announcement, and no one hears what you say.
27 I was the first to say to Zion, “Look, here they are!”
I sent a messenger to announce the good news to Jerusalem.
28 But I am looking, and there isn’t anyone.
I have asked around, and no one knows, no one can tell Me.
29 See here, all of these so-called gods are false;
their works are nothing;
These cast-metal images are like wind, sheer emptiness.
42 Eternal One: Look here, let Me present My servant;
I have taken hold of him. He is My chosen, and I delight in him.
I have put My Spirit on him; by this he will bring justice to the nations.
This poem is the first of several Servant Songs. God’s special Servant is described in various ways. In this song (42:1–9), the Servant is portrayed as one who faithfully establishes justice in the world and serves as a light for the nations. In the second song (49:1–13), the Servant is called from the womb and ordained to restore the nation of Israel and take salvation to the ends of the earth. In the third song (50:4–9), the Servant is portrayed as a teacher, intimately in touch with God, yet brutally beaten and disgraced by his enemies. In the fourth song (52:13–53:12), the suffering and rejection of God’s Servant takes priority over his other tasks; yet even in his suffering God is working to repair the world from the harm done by sin and evil.
2 Eternal One: He will not scream or yell,
crying out for all to hear.
3 What is bruised and bent, he will not break;
he will not blow out a smoldering candle.
Rather, he will faithfully turn his attention to doing justice.
4 And though he faces obstacles, resistance, and great pressure,
he will not crack; he will not give up until things are set right.
Even the coastlands wait patiently for his instruction.
5 God, the Eternal One, who made the starry skies,
stretched them tight above and around;
Who cast the shimmering globe of earth and filled it with life;
who gives breath and animates the people;
Who walks and talks with life-giving spirit has this to say:
6 Eternal One: I am the Eternal One. By righteousness I have called you.
I will take you by the hand and keep you safe.
You are given as a covenant between Me and the people:
a light for the nations, a shining beacon to the world.
7 You will open blind eyes so they will see again.
You will lead prisoners, blinking, out from caverns of captivity,
from cells pitch black with despair.
8 I am the Eternal One.
I Am is My name.
My beauty is unique, a weighty splendor all My own.
And nothing else—no idols could possibly gain My praise.
9 Look here, what’s done is done and gone.
The now is new, and there’s hope in the not-yet.
I will tell you what’s to come, even before the events are brand-new.
10 So make up a song like none other. Sing a new song to the Eternal.
And let His praise echo clear across the earth.
Let those who go to sea set sail with praise in the air.
Let those who live along the waters’ edge sing His praise.
11 Let desert places, urban and rural, wild and settled, sing!
Let the settlements of Kedar and those in the craggy cliffs of Sela join in the celebration.
The peaks of mountains, too, raise your voices with a great, glad cry.
12 Let them all give glory to the Eternal.
Let them praise the One who is, was, and will be heard along the coasts.
13 As a hero throws himself into battle, the Eternal will take on His enemies;
with passion, shouting out a deafening roar, He will power over them.
14 Eternal One: As a woman fiercely strains to give birth, I will gasp, pant, and cry out.
I have been quiet for a long time; I have held back in the face of it all.
Well, no more.
15 When My power is loosed, I will make level the heights
and render them bare.
I will dry up the rivers until bare islands appear,
and empty the sweet water from the pools.
16 I will escort the blind down roads they do not know,
guide them down paths they’ve never seen.
I will smooth their passage and light their way.
I will indeed do it—they are abandoned no more.
17 Meanwhile, those who put their stock in worthless images,
who worship things impotent and breakable
And say to idols, “You are our gods,”
will be turned away and mortified.
18 Eternal One: You, deaf to the world, hear!
You, blind in your eyes, look! And you will see.
19 My servant is as blind as any.
Who could be more deaf than the one who goes where I direct and tells what I want told?
The identity of the Servant is much debated. On the one hand, Isaiah often refers to God’s people, Israel, as “the servant of the Eternal” (41:8–9; 42:19; 45:4; especially 49:3). Yet at other times the Servant seems to be an individual, distinct from Israel, with a special mission to and for Israel. Early Christians hear these Servant Songs and reflect on Jesus’ significance; they better understand His role as the light of the world, teacher, and Suffering Servant of God. They see His life and ministry as the embodiment and representative of true Israel and therefore the fulfillment of these words. They use the prophet’s poetry to formulate songs and sermons that express not only Jesus’ unique relationship to God but also His unique career as the Light of the world.
Who is as blind as the one committed to do what the Eternal One wills,
the servant of the Eternal?
20 The seer-of-much nevertheless doesn’t get it;
privy to sound and speech and tone, he still doesn’t hear.
21 On account of God’s goodness, His right ways and deeds,
the Eternal was pleased to make the instruction grand and glorious.
22 But this people is compromised.
They’ve been plundered and robbed.
They have lost—things, liberty, place, and name.
They are all trapped in holes and tucked away in prisons.
They’ve been plundered and depleted with none to the rescue.
They’ve been stolen away with none to insist, “Give them back.”
23 Is there anyone who understands? Who, out of all of you, will pay attention,
understand, and take note concerning what’s to come?
God is the one who lies behind these events. He makes it possible for His people to be defeated and taken away.
24 Wasn’t it the Lord, because we turned our backs,
who gave up Jacob’s descendants, Israel, for robbery and plunder?
We refused to live as God would have us live. We did not heed
the instruction that God gave us through Moses so long ago.
25 That’s why God sent all fury against Jacob
in the shape of war, and we were burned.
We experienced all this;
Yet we didn’t get it. God’s people did not take it to heart.
43 Eternal One: Remember who created you, O Jacob?
Who shaped you, O Israel?
See, you have nothing to fear. I, who made you, will take you back.
I have chosen you, named you as My own.
2 When you face stormy seas I will be there with you with endurance and calm;
you will not be engulfed in raging rivers.
If it seems like you’re walking through fire with flames licking at your limbs,
keep going; you won’t be burned.
3 Because I, the Eternal One, am your God.
I am the Holy One of Israel, and I will save you.
I have traded in nations to win you back,
Egypt, Cush, and Seba, in exchange for your freedom.
4 Because you are special to Me and I love you,
I gladly give up other peoples in exchange for you;
They are trivial by comparison to your weighty significance.
5-6 So don’t be afraid. I am here.
I will reunite you with your children,
bringing them back from wherever in the world they are—East, West, North, or South.
No place will be able to hold you when I demand your release, when I order them,
“Bring My children—My sons and daughters—from far away.
7 Bring the ones who are called by My name;
the ones I made, shaped, and created for My profound glory.”
8 Even though they fail and seem blind and deaf (and not for lack of eyes or ears),
bring them out.
9 All the nations gather together; peoples from all over the world assemble.
Who among them could have forseen this?
Let them call their witnesses to make their case, prove they are in the right—
that it is the truth.
10 Eternal One: You are My witnesses; You are My proof.
You whom I chose for special purpose, My servant,
in order that you would know Me, trust Me, be faithful to Me,
Understand that I alone am God; no god was formed before Me,
and there will be no god after Me.
11 I, I am the Eternal;
there is no Savior except for Me,
12 I alone told that this victory would happen. Then I saved you and made it known.
No other god worked among you—You know the truth.
You can testify that it is so; as I declare, I alone am God.
13 Indeed, from day one, I am He. No one can wrest another from My hand.
I make things happen; who can turn them around?
Often in his letters, Paul records his prayers for his churches. He is constantly talking with God about those he considers his spiritual children. He prays that God will grant them wisdom, knowledge, and great power. This is the same power that was at work when God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him in heaven. Ultimately Paul knows all powers have been subjected to Jesus, the God-man, and He is destined to be head over all creation. In the resurrection of Jesus, the ultimate redemption of the cosmos has begun, and the church is the first act of God’s glorious drama.
2 As for you, don’t you remember how you used to just exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, 2 wandering the course of this perverse world. You were the offspring of the prince of the power of air—oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobedience. I’m not talking about the outsiders alone; 3 we were all guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; we all have had our fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers. As a result, our natural inclinations led us to be children of wrath, just like the rest of humankind.
4 But God, with the unfathomable richness of His love and mercy focused on us, 5 united us with the Anointed One and infused our lifeless souls with life—even though we were buried under mountains of sin—and saved us by His grace. 6 He raised us up with Him and seated us in the heavenly realms with our beloved Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. 7 He did this for a reason: so that for all eternity we will stand as a living testimony to the incredible riches of His grace and kindness that He freely gives to us by uniting us with Jesus the Anointed. 8-9 For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. 10 For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.
The relationship between faith and works is often misunderstood. Some think that salvation is God’s reward for good deeds. If that’s true, then it can’t possibly be a gift. If it were a reward, then heaven would be a place where people might compare notes on what they did to make it through the gates. But Paul is confident in the truth of the gospel. The truth is that salvation is God’s gift through Jesus. Grace and faith make salvation real in us. When we are transformed by grace, then we become His new creation and begin to live out the good works He has planned for us. Works, then, aren’t the cause of salvation; they are its result. To put it another way, works aren’t the means of salvation; they are its presence.
11 So never forget how you used to be. Those of you born as outsiders to Israel were outcasts, branded “the uncircumcised” by those who bore the sign of the covenant in their flesh, a sign made with human hands. 12 You had absolutely no connection to the Anointed; you were strangers, separated from God’s people. You were aliens to the covenant they had with God; you were hopelessly stranded without God in a fractured world. 13 But now, because of Jesus the Anointed and His sacrifice, all of that has changed. God gathered you who were so far away and brought you near to Him by the royal blood of the Anointed, our Liberating King.
14 He is the embodiment of our peace, sent once and for all to take down the great barrier of hatred and hostility that has divided us so that we can be one. 15 He offered His body on the sacrificial altar to bring an end to the law’s ordinances and dictations that separated Jews from the outside nations. His desire was to create in His body one new humanity from the two opposing groups, thus creating peace. 16 Effectively the cross becomes God’s means to kill off the hostility once and for all so that He is able to reconcile them both to God in this one new body.
17 The Great Preacher of peace and love came for you, and His voice found those of you who were near and those who were far away. 18 By Him both have access to the Father in one Spirit. 19 And so you are no longer called outcasts and wanderers but citizens with God’s people, members of God’s holy family, and residents of His household. 20 You are being built on a solid foundation: the message of the prophets and the voices of God’s chosen emissaries[a] with Jesus, the Anointed Himself, the precious cornerstone. 21 The building is joined together stone by stone—all of us chosen and sealed in Him, rising up to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In Him you are being built together, creating a sacred dwelling place among you where God can live in the Spirit.
- 2:20 Literally, apostles
For the worship leader. A song accompanied by strings.
1 May God pour His grace and blessings into us
and turn His face to shine His light on us.
2 So all those on earth will learn to follow Your way
and see Your saving power come to redeem all nations.
3 May all people live to praise You, Our True God;
may all come to praise You.
4 May all nations celebrate together, singing joy-filled songs of praise to You
because You judge the people fairly
and give guidance to all the nations of the earth.
5 May the people praise You with their whole hearts, O God;
may every man, woman, and child on the earth praise You.
6 The land has supplied a bountiful harvest,
and the True God, our God, has poured out His blessings to us all.
7 God is the source of our blessings;
may every corner of the earth respect and revere Him.
- 67:1 Literally, selah, likely a musical direction from a Hebrew root meaning “to lift up”
29 Who is wallowing in anguish? Who is full of sorrow?
Who has conflicts? Who has complaints?
Who has bruises and can’t remember where they came from?
Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 You know who: those who stay up late finishing off the wine,
those who can’t stop savoring spiced wines.
31 Look away from the enticing beauty of wine, the deep red hue;
ignore how it shimmers in the cup
and glides down your throat.
32 Eventually, when you least expect it, it strikes like a snake;
it stings like viper venom.
33 Your vision will blur, and you’ll imagine strange things;
you will say crazy, hurtful things and regret it later.
34 You will reel and stagger as if caught on a wave of seasickness,
as a sailor who holds on to a mast for dear life.
35 You will say, “They slapped me, but it didn’t hurt.
They beat me, and I didn’t feel a thing!
Whenever I wake up from this stupor,
I’ll have another drink!”