God: I’m the one and only
God: Israel, you belong to me1
Listen to me, people of Jacob. I chose you.
People of Israel, you are mine.
From an idea to a nation,
Like an unborn baby to a grownup.
He is invested in you.
He’s going to help you.
Here’s what the LORD says:
Don’t be afraid, children of Jacob,
You’re my chosen people of Israel.
3I’ll pour water on dry ground.
I’ll send streams into thirsty desert.
I’ll pour my Spirit into your descendants,
And my kindness onto your children.
4They’ll grow like a field of tall grass
Or like a forest of willows by the water.
5Some will say, “I’m one of the LORD’s people.”
Others will say, “I’m in Jacob’s family.”
Still others will write on their hands:
“Belongs to the LORD.”
And others will say they’re from Israel.
6Israel’s King and LORD says this:
I was the first to arrive,
I’ll be the last to leave.
There are no gods but me.
7Is there another god out there?
Speak up if you’re there.
I’ve been telling the future for a long time.
If someone else can do it, go ahead and try.
8Don’t be afraid of me.
Haven’t I told you from the beginning
That you’re my witnesses.
You’ve seen what I have done.
There is no other god you can count on.
I’m the God, rock solid.
Shame on idol makers and users9
Everyone who makes idols has a do-nothing job.
So much work for so much of nothing.
People treasure those worthless objects.
Idols can’t look or think or know.
Yet people admit they worship their idols.
Those people should be ashamed.
Why cast it in a mold with precious metal
When it can’t do one thing of value.
Shame will be the price to pay.
11Shame on people in the business of idols.
Artisans are just humans trying to make a god.
Let all those people stand in front of me.
They should be terrified
Because they’ll be put to shame.
How to make an idol12
The blacksmith works hard on an idol.
He heats it over coals and hammers it to shape.
He works the forge with muscled arms
Till he’s hungry, thirsty, and lightheaded.
draws a line on a block of wood.
He cuts it, shapes it with a plane,
and shaves it to look almost human.
Then that handsome block of wood
Gets to live inside a shrine.
14He uses cedar, oak, and other wood
Grown tall within a forest. He might even plant a cedar,
But it needs God’s rain to make it grow.
15He uses wood to keep him warm
Burning it when days get cold.
He builds a fire, bakes some bread,
Then makes himself a god.
And he kneels before his god
In a reverent show of worship.
16Half the wood is useful
Burned to cook some meat.
He roasts a roast and eats his fill
And says, “Now that was good.
I’m fed and warm and the fire is hot.”
17He uses wood leftover to make himself an idol.
Then he bows and prays, “Save me. You’re my god.”
18These folks don’t realize what they’re doing.
Their eyes aren’t watching, they can’t see a thing.
Their minds are closed and not open for business.
19They don’t analyze what they’re doing,
Have no idea what they did.
They burned some wood in a fire,
Baked some bread on its hot coals,
Then roasted roast above the flames.
But they didn’t think to ask if it’s a good idea
To use the rest to make an idol
So they could bow to a block of wood.
20He feeds his spirit on a block of ashes.
It warps the way he thinks.
Though he can’t save himself, he still won’t say,
“The wood is real. The god is not.”
God: Israel, don’t forget this21
I want you to remember this, Jacob’s children.
People of Israel, you belong to me.
I made you what you are. You are mine.
Dear children of Israel don’t forget it.
like disappearing clouds
or evaporating mist.
Your sins are gone. Come back to me.
I’m coming to your rescue.
23The LORD has saved Israel.
Heaven, sing that song.
Earth, sing along,
Valleys, mountains, and every forest tree.
When people look at Israel now,
They’ll glimpse the glory of God.
Jerusalem will rise from the rocks24
The LORD created you and rescued you.
This is what he says:
I am the LORD.
I created everything.
I rolled out the sky above you.
I planted Earth beneath your feet.
I catch prophets and fortunetellers in their lies.
I make fools of acclaimed sages,
And nonsense of their wisdom.
26But I confirm what my prophets say.
I make their predictions come true:
“Judah’s ruin, a pile of rocks
will grow into cities once again.
My people will make Jerusalem their home.”
I’ll raise those ruins and bring them to life.
27I’m the one who makes it happen.
I tell deep water to go away.
I tell rivers to sink in the mud.
28I tell Cyrus, “I’m appointing you as shepherd king.
You’ll do the work you know I want:
Order Jerusalem rebuilt from ruins.
Order the Temple foundation laid.”
The word for “spirit” in Hebrew is ruah. Like the Greek word used in the New Testament, pneuma, it can mean breath, wind, or spirit. We use this Greek word when we talk about air-powered tools: pneumatic. Wind is often associated with God. Bible writers often talk of God pouring a spirit of leadership in dynamic characters in Jewish history: prophets, kings such as David, heroes such as Gideon (Judges 6:34) and Samson (Judges 13:25). One of the heroic leaders of Israel known as “judges,” Othniel had a unique Spirit of leadership and power. He may have also had the kind of charisma some people have today, which attracts fans and followers. The Christian movement started producing congregations after God’s Spirit came to Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem (Acts 2). Full of the Spirit with boldness and courage, Peter preached a sermon in the city that, five weeks earlier, had executed his rabbi, Jesus Christ. The sermon produced more than 3,000 converts, forming the First Church of Jesus the Messiah. Not an official name. Just descriptive.
This seems to describe Jews scattered throughout the Middle East sometime before King Cyrus of Persia freed Babylon’s political prisoners to go back to their homelands and rebuild their cities and nations. Even scattered, the former people of Israel retained a sense of camaraderie as one particular people—the people of God. They did this in spite of the fact that their nation had been erased from the political map.
Cyrus the Great ruled the Persian Empire about two centuries after Isaiah, from 559-530 BC. That’s odd because Bible prophecies aren’t often this specific. And they never mention anyone else by name. Cyrus is the sole exception. Yet many Bible scholars insist that Isaiah wrote Cyrus into the Bible as a prediction. Many others say this part of Isaiah, along with all the chapters after Isaiah 39, were likely written centuries after Isaiah—as the history of Israel, presented in the poetry of prophecy.
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