Isaiah 49:1-50:3

The Lord's Servant

1 Listen to me, you islands.

Listen carefully, you people who live far away.

The Lord called me to serve him

before I was born.

Before my mother gave birth,

he used my name to speak to me.

2 The message that he gave me to speak

was like a sharp sword.

He kept me safe in his hand.

He made me like a sharp arrow

that he keeps safe and ready to use.

3 He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel.

Because of you, I will cause people to know that I am great.’

4 I said, ‘My work has been useless.

I have worked hard with no results.’

But the Lord will do what is right for me.

He will give me what I deserve for my work.

5 The Lord chose me to be his servant, even before I was born. He chose me to bring Jacob's descendants back to himself. He chose me to bring Israel's people together to serve him. As a result, the Lord will honour me. He is the one who makes me strong. The Lord, my God, says,

6 ‘As my servant, I have a greater job for you to do.

It will not only be to make Jacob's tribes strong again.

It will not only be to bring back Israel's people that I have kept safe.

It will also be your job

to bring light to the other nations.

You will show people all over the world

that I have the power to save them.’

7 The Lord is Israel's Redeemer, their Holy God. Nations refuse to accept his servant. Their people hate him and their rulers have made him their slave. The Lord says to his servant,

‘Kings will see you and they will rise up to respect you.

Princes will bend down low in front of you.

They will see that the Lord is faithful.

He is Israel's Holy God,

who has chosen you to serve him.’

8 This is what the Lord says:

‘I will answer your prayers

at the time that I have chosen to help you.

Yes, I will come to save you on that day.

I will keep you safe,

so that I can make a covenant with people through you.

You will make the land safe again.

People will return to live there,

in places that had become empty.

9 You will say to the prisoners,

“Come out!”

You will say to people who are in dark prisons,

“Come outside!”

Then they will be free to find food for themselves.

They will eat along the road and on the tops of the hills.

10 They will not be hungry or thirsty.

The strong heat of the sun will not hurt them.

The one who loves them will be their guide.

He will lead them to drink from springs of water.

11 I will make all my mountains become roads.

I will build good roads for my people to travel on.

12 Look! People will return to the land

from places that are far away.

Yes, some of them will come from the north and from the west.

And some will come from the land of Sinim.’

49:12‘Sinim’ may have been a place in Egypt. It might be the place that we call ‘Aswan’ today.

13 Shout with joy, everything in the sky!

Be happy, everything on the earth!

Sing loudly, you mountains!

Be happy, because the Lord comforts his people.

He will be kind to his people who have trouble and pain.

14 But Zion's people said,

‘The Lord has left us alone.

The Lord God has forgotten about us.’

15 The Lord replies,

‘Can a mother forget the baby

who drinks milk at her breast?

Can she refuse to be kind to the child

that she has given birth to?

Perhaps those mothers might forget their children.

But I would not ever forget you, Zion.

49:15Here, the Lord is talking to Jerusalem (Zion), as if it is a person.

16 Look! I have written your name on my own hand.

I always see the walls of your city in my mind.

17 Your children will hurry back to you,

to build you again.

The enemies who destroyed you will go away.

18 Look all round you!

See all your people as they return together.’

The Lord says, ‘I tell you clearly, as the God who lives,

you will be happy with your people.

They will make you beautiful again,

like a bride with her beautiful jewels.

19 Enemies have destroyed your land.

Its towns have become heaps of stones.

But soon your land will be too small for all your people to live in.

The enemies who destroyed you will be far away from you.

20 The children who were born in a foreign land

will return to you.

You will hear them say,

“This place is too small for us.

Find more room for us to live in.”

21 Then you will think, “Who gave me all these children?

Who is their father?

I was alone, with no husband.

They killed my children

or they took them away to a foreign land.

I could no longer give birth.

So where did all these children come from?” ’

22 The Almighty Lord says,

‘Look! I will lift up my hand,

to call the nations.

I will raise up a flag

as a sign to those people.

Then they will bring back your sons and your daughters.

They will carry them in their arms and on their shoulders.

23 The kings of those nations will take care of your children.

The kings' daughters will feed them.

The rulers will bend down low in front of you,

so that their faces touch the ground.

They will taste the dirt by your feet.

Then you will know that I am the Lord.

I will not disappoint people who wait for me to help them.

24 Can anyone rob a brave soldier?

Can anyone rescue prisoners from a cruel ruler?’

25 But the Lord says,

‘Yes! One day the brave soldier's prisoners will be free.

One day the cruel ruler will lose the valuable things that he has taken for himself.

I myself will fight against your enemies.

I will rescue your children.

26 I will cause your cruel enemies to destroy themselves.

There will be so much blood that it will seem like wine.

They will seem like people who have become drunk.

Then people everywhere will recognize that I am the Lord.

They will know that I am your Saviour and your Redeemer,

and I am the Mighty One of Jacob.’

Isaiah 50

1 This is what the Lord says to his people:

‘Did I send your mother away,

like a man sends away his wife?

Where is the paper to say

why I have sent her away?

Did I sell you to pay people that I was in debt to?

Where is the paper that shows

the reason for my debt?

Listen! I sold you because of your sins.

I sent your mother away

because you have not obeyed me.

50:1God is saying that he sent the Israelites away into exile because they did not obey him. That is why God is no longer there to keep Zion city safe. Zion is like a ‘mother’ for the Israelites. It is as if God has sent her away. She is no longer his ‘wife’. He has done all this because of the Israelite people's sins.

2 Nobody was there to meet me,

when I came to help you.

When I called out to you,

nobody answered me.

Do you think that my arm is too weak to rescue you?

Am I not strong enough to save you?

Look! I can speak to the sea so that it becomes dry!

I can cause rivers to become deserts.

Then the fish die because they have no water.

3 I can cause the sky to become dark,

as if I have covered it with sackcloth.’