Isaiah 43

When You’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place

1-4 But now, God’s Message,
    the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
    the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
    all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
    That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
    trade the creation just for you.

“So don’t be afraid: I’m with you.
    I’ll round up all your scattered children,
    pull them in from east and west.
I’ll send orders north and south:
    ‘Send them back.
Return my sons from distant lands,
    my daughters from faraway places.
I want them back, every last one who bears my name,
    every man, woman, and child
Whom I created for my glory,
    yes, personally formed and made each one.’”

Get the blind and deaf out here and ready—
    the blind (though there’s nothing wrong with their eyes)
    and the deaf (though there’s nothing wrong with their ears).
Then get the other nations out here and ready.
    Let’s see what they have to say about this,
    how they account for what’s happened.
Let them present their expert witnesses
    and make their case;
    let them try to convince us what they say is true.
“But you are my witnesses.” God’s Decree.
    “You’re my handpicked servant
So that you’ll come to know and trust me,
    understand both that I am and who I am.
Previous to me there was no such thing as a god,
    nor will there be after me.
I, yes I, am God.
    I’m the only Savior there is.
I spoke, I saved, I told you what existed
    long before these upstart gods appeared on the scene.
And you know it, you’re my witnesses,
    you’re the evidence.” God’s Decree.
“Yes, I am God.
    I’ve always been God
    and I always will be God.
No one can take anything from me.
    I make; who can unmake it?”

You Didn’t Even Do the Minimum

God, your Redeemer,
    The Holy of Israel, says:
“Just for you, I will march on Babylon.
    I’ll turn the tables on the Babylonians.
Instead of whooping it up,
    they’ll be wailing.
I am God, your Holy One,
    Creator of Israel, your King.”

This is what God says,
    the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
    who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
    they lie down and then can’t get up;
    they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
    —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
    rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
    the people I made especially for myself,
    a people custom-made to praise me.

“But you didn’t pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob.
    You so quickly tired of me, Israel.
You wouldn’t even bring sheep for offerings in worship.
    You couldn’t be bothered with sacrifices.
It wasn’t that I asked that much from you.
    I didn’t expect expensive presents.
But you didn’t even do the minimum—
    so stingy with me, so closefisted.
Yet you haven’t been stingy with your sins.
    You’ve been plenty generous with them—and I’m fed up.

“But I, yes I, am the one
    who takes care of your sins—that’s what I do.
    I don’t keep a list of your sins.

“So, make your case against me. Let’s have this out.
    Make your arguments. Prove you’re in the right.
Your original ancestor started the sinning,
    and everyone since has joined in.
That’s why I had to disqualify the Temple leaders,
    repudiate Jacob and discredit Israel.”

Read More of Isaiah 43

Isaiah 44:1-23

Proud to Be Called Israel

1-5 “But for now, dear servant Jacob, listen—
    yes, you, Israel, my personal choice.
God who made you has something to say to you;
    the God who formed you in the womb wants to help you.
Don’t be afraid, dear servant Jacob,
    Jeshurun, the one I chose.
For I will pour water on the thirsty ground
    and send streams coursing through the parched earth.
I will pour my Spirit into your descendants
    and my blessing on your children.
They shall sprout like grass on the prairie,
    like willows alongside creeks.
This one will say, ‘I am God’s,’
    and another will go by the name Jacob;
That one will write on his hand ‘God’s property’—
    and be proud to be called Israel.”

God, King of Israel,
    your Redeemer, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says:
“I’m first, I’m last, and everything in between.
    I’m the only God there is.
Who compares with me?
    Speak up. See if you measure up.
From the beginning, who else has always announced what’s coming?
    So what is coming next? Anybody want to venture a try?
Don’t be afraid, and don’t worry:
    Haven’t I always kept you informed, told you what was going on?
You’re my eyewitnesses:
    Have you ever come across a God, a real God, other than me?
    There’s no Rock like me that I know of.”

Lover of Emptiness

All those who make no-god idols don’t amount to a thing, and what they work so hard at making is nothing. Their little puppet-gods see nothing and know nothing—they’re total embarrassments! Who would bother making gods that can’t do anything, that can’t “god”? Watch all the no-god worshipers hide their faces in shame. Watch the no-god makers slink off humiliated when their idols fail them. Get them out here in the open. Make them face God-reality.

The blacksmith makes his no-god, works it over in his forge, hammering it on his anvil—such hard work! He works away, fatigued with hunger and thirst.

The woodworker draws up plans for his no-god, traces it on a block of wood. He shapes it with chisels and planes into human shape—a beautiful woman, a handsome man, ready to be placed in a chapel. He first cuts down a cedar, or maybe picks out a pine or oak, and lets it grow strong in the forest, nourished by the rain. Then it can serve a double purpose: Part he uses as firewood for keeping warm and baking bread; from the other part he makes a god that he worships—carves it into a god shape and prays before it. With half he makes a fire to warm himself and barbecue his supper. He eats his fill and sits back satisfied with his stomach full and his feet warmed by the fire: “Ah, this is the life.” And he still has half left for a god, made to his personal design—a handy, convenient no-god to worship whenever so inclined. Whenever the need strikes him he prays to it, “Save me. You’re my god.”

Pretty stupid, wouldn’t you say? Don’t they have eyes in their heads? Are their brains working at all? Doesn’t it occur to them to say, “Half of this tree I used for firewood: I baked bread, roasted meat, and enjoyed a good meal. And now I’ve used the rest to make an abominable no-god. Here I am praying to a stick of wood!”

This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can’t even look at what he’s doing, can’t even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, “This is crazy.”

“Remember these things, O Jacob.
    Take it seriously, Israel, that you’re my servant.
I made you, shaped you: You’re my servant.
    O Israel, I’ll never forget you.
I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings.
    There’s nothing left of your sins.
Come back to me, come back.
    I’ve redeemed you.”

High heavens, sing!
    God has done it.
Deep earth, shout!
    And you mountains, sing!
    A forest choir of oaks and pines and cedars!
God has redeemed Jacob.
    God’s glory is on display in Israel.

Read More of Isaiah 44