New International Version

Isaiah 41

The Helper of Israel

1“Be silent before me, you islands!
    Let the nations renew their strength!
Let them come forward and speak;
    let us meet together at the place of judgment.

“Who has stirred up one from the east,
    calling him in righteousness to his service[a]?
He hands nations over to him
    and subdues kings before him.
He turns them to dust with his sword,
    to windblown chaff with his bow.
He pursues them and moves on unscathed,
    by a path his feet have not traveled before.
Who has done this and carried it through,
    calling forth the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord—with the first of them
    and with the last—I am he.”

The islands have seen it and fear;
    the ends of the earth tremble.
They approach and come forward;
    they help each other
    and say to their companions, “Be strong!”
The metalworker encourages the goldsmith,
    and the one who smooths with the hammer
    spurs on the one who strikes the anvil.
One says of the welding, “It is good.”
    The other nails down the idol so it will not topple.

“But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

11 “All who rage against you
    will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
    will be as nothing and perish.
12 Though you search for your enemies,
    you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
    will be as nothing at all.
13 For I am the Lord your God
    who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
    I will help you.
14 Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
    little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord,
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
15 “See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,
    new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains and crush them,
    and reduce the hills to chaff.
16 You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up,
    and a gale will blow them away.
But you will rejoice in the Lord
    and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

17 “The poor and needy search for water,
    but there is none;
    their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
    and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
    and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
    the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
    the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
    may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
    that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

21 “Present your case,” says the Lord.
    “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.
22 “Tell us, you idols,
    what is going to happen.
Tell us what the former things were,
    so that we may consider them
    and know their final outcome.
Or declare to us the things to come,
23     tell us what the future holds,
    so we may know that you are gods.
Do something, whether good or bad,
    so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.
24 But you are less than nothing
    and your works are utterly worthless;
    whoever chooses you is detestable.

25 “I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes—
    one from the rising sun who calls on my name.
He treads on rulers as if they were mortar,
    as if he were a potter treading the clay.
26 Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know,
    or beforehand, so we could say, ‘He was right’?
No one told of this,
    no one foretold it,
    no one heard any words from you.
27 I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look, here they are!’
    I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good news.
28 I look but there is no one—
    no one among the gods to give counsel,
    no one to give answer when I ask them.
29 See, they are all false!
    Their deeds amount to nothing;
    their images are but wind and confusion.

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 41:2 Or east, / whom victory meets at every step

The Message

Isaiah 41

Do You Feel Like a Lowly Worm?

1“Quiet down, far-flung ocean islands. Listen!
    Sit down and rest, everyone. Recover your strength.
Gather around me. Say what’s on your heart.
    Together let’s decide what’s right.

2-3 “Who got things rolling here,
    got this champion from the east on the move?
Who recruited him for this job,
    then rounded up and corralled the nations
    so he could run roughshod over kings?
He’s off and running,
    pulverizing nations into dust,
    leaving only stubble and chaff in his wake.
He chases them and comes through unscathed,
    his feet scarcely touching the path.

“Who did this? Who made it happen?
    Who always gets things started?
I did. God. I’m first on the scene.
    I’m also the last to leave.

5-7 “Far-flung ocean islands see it and panic.
    The ends of the earth are shaken.
    Fearfully they huddle together.
They try to help each other out,
    making up stories in the dark.
The godmakers in the workshops
    go into overtime production, crafting new models of no-gods,
Urging one another on—‘Good job!’ ‘Great design!’—
    pounding in nails at the base
    so that the things won’t tip over.

8-10 “But you, Israel, are my servant.
    You’re Jacob, my first choice,
    descendants of my good friend Abraham.
I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

11-13 “Count on it: Everyone who had it in for you
    will end up out in the cold—
    real losers.
Those who worked against you
    will end up empty-handed—
    nothing to show for their lives.
When you go out looking for your old adversaries
    you won’t find them—
Not a trace of your old enemies,
    not even a memory.
That’s right. Because I, your God,
    have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic.
    I’m right here to help you.’

14-16 “Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob?
    Don’t be afraid.
Feel like a fragile insect, Israel?
    I’ll help you.
I, God, want to reassure you.
    The God who buys you back, The Holy of Israel.
I’m transforming you from worm to harrow,
    from insect to iron.
As a sharp-toothed harrow you’ll smooth out the mountains,
    turn those tough old hills into loamy soil.
You’ll open the rough ground to the weather,
    to the blasts of sun and wind and rain.
But you’ll be confident and exuberant,
    expansive in The Holy of Israel!

17-20 “The poor and homeless are desperate for water,
    their tongues parched and no water to be found.
But I’m there to be found, I’m there for them,
    and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.
I’ll open up rivers for them on the barren hills,
    spout fountains in the valleys.
I’ll turn the baked-clay badlands into a cool pond,
    the waterless waste into splashing creeks.
I’ll plant the red cedar in that treeless wasteland,
    also acacia, myrtle, and olive.
I’ll place the cypress in the desert,
    with plenty of oaks and pines.
Everyone will see this. No one can miss it—
    unavoidable, indisputable evidence
That I, God, personally did this.
    It’s created and signed by The Holy of Israel.

21-24 “Set out your case for your gods,” says God.
    “Bring your evidence,” says the King of Jacob.
“Take the stand on behalf of your idols, offer arguments,
    assemble reasons.
Spread out the facts before us
    so that we can assess them ourselves.
Ask them, ‘If you are gods, explain what the past means—
    or, failing that, tell us what will happen in the future.
Can’t do that?
    How about doing something—anything!
Good or bad—whatever.
    Can you hurt us or help us? Do we need to be afraid?’
They say nothing, because they are nothing—
    sham gods, no-gods, fool-making gods.

25-29 “I, God, started someone out from the north and he’s come.
    He was called out of the east by name.
He’ll stomp the rulers into the mud
    the way a potter works the clay.
Let me ask you, Did anyone guess that this might happen?
    Did anyone tell us earlier so we might confirm it
    with ‘Yes, he’s right!’?
No one mentioned it, no one announced it,
    no one heard a peep out of you.
But I told Zion all about this beforehand.
    I gave Jerusalem a preacher of good news.
But around here there’s no one—
    no one who knows what’s going on.
    I ask, but no one can tell me the score.
Nothing here. It’s all smoke and hot air—
    sham gods, hollow gods, no-gods.”