God’s Word of Hope
Isaiah 49:1-26: The prophet Isaiah focuses on the new future that the LORD is creating for the people of Israel. Even though Jerusalem lies in ruins, it will be restored and the people will rejoice. God will bless and protect those who return from exile.
Sing, heavens! Shout for joy, earth! Let the mountains burst into song! The LORD will comfort his people; he will have pity on his suffering people.
Israel, A Light to the Nations
1 Listen to me, distant nations,
you people who live far away!
Before I was born, the Lord chose me
and appointed me to be his servant.
2 He made my words as sharp as a sword.
With his own hand he protected me.
He made me like an arrow,
sharp and ready for use.
3He said to me, “Israel, you are my servant;
because of you, people will praise me.”
4I said, “I have worked, but how hopeless it is!
I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing.”
Yet I can trust the Lord to defend my cause;
he will reward me for what I do.
5Before I was born, the Lord appointed me;
he made me his servant to bring back his people,
to bring back the scattered people of Israel.
The Lord gives me honor;
he is the source of my strength.
6 The Lord said to me,
“I have a greater task for you, my servant.
Not only will you restore to greatness
the people of Israel who have survived,
but I will also make you a light to the nations—
so that all the world may be saved.”
7Israel's holy God and savior says
to the one who is deeply despised,
who is hated by the nations
and is the servant of rulers:
“Kings will see you released
and will rise to show their respect;
princes also will see it,
and they will bow low to honor you.”
This will happen because the Lord has chosen his servant;
the holy God of Israel keeps his promises.
The Restoration of Jerusalem
8 The Lord says to his people,
“When the time comes to save you, I will show you favor
and answer your cries for help.
I will guard and protect you
and through you make a covenant with all peoples.
I will let you settle once again
in your land that is now laid waste.
9I will say to the prisoners, ‘Go free!’
and to those who are in darkness,
‘Come out to the light!’
They will be like sheep that graze on the hills;
10 they will never be hungry or thirsty.
Sun and desert heat will not hurt them,
for they will be led by one who loves them.
He will lead them to springs of water.
11“I will make a highway across the mountains
and prepare a road for my people to travel.
12My people will come from far away,
from the north and the west,
and from Aswan in the south.”
13Sing, heavens! Shout for joy, earth!
Let the mountains burst into song!
The Lord will comfort his people;
he will have pity on his suffering people.
14But the people of Jerusalem said,
“The Lord has abandoned us!
He has forgotten us.”
15So the Lord answers,
“Can a woman forget her own baby
and not love the child she bore?
Even if a mother should forget her child,
I will never forget you.
16Jerusalem, I can never forget you!
I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
17“Those who will rebuild you are coming soon,
and those who destroyed you will leave.
18Look around and see what is happening!
Your people are assembling—they are coming home!
As surely as I am the living God,
you will be proud of your people,
as proud as a bride is of her jewels.
19“Your country was ruined and desolate—
but now it will be too small
for those who are coming to live there.
And those who left you in ruins
will be far removed from you.
20Your people who were born in exile
will one day say to you,
‘This land is too small—
we need more room to live in!’
21Then you will say to yourself,
‘Who bore all these children for me?
I lost my children and could have no more.
I was exiled and driven away—
who brought these children up?
I was left all alone—
where did these children come from?’”
22 The Sovereign Lord says to his people:
“I will signal to the nations,
and they will bring your children home.
23Kings will be like fathers to you;
queens will be like mothers.
They will bow low before you and honor you;
they will humbly show their respect for you.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
no one who waits for my help will be disappointed.”
24Can you take away a soldier's loot?
Can you rescue the prisoners of a tyrant?
25The Lord replies,
“That is just what is going to happen.
The soldier's prisoners will be taken away,
and the tyrant's loot will be seized.
I will fight against whoever fights you,
and I will rescue your children.
26I will make your oppressors kill each other;
they will be drunk with murder and rage.
Then all people will know that I am the Lord,
the one who saves you and sets you free.
They will know that I am Israel's powerful God.”
Verses 1-7 comprise the second of the four “servant songs” in the book of Isaiah. According to these verses, what is the servant’s task (verses 5, 6)? How is the restoration of Jerusalem described (verses 8-13)? Reread verses 14-16. While in exile, many Israelites probably felt as if the LORD had forgotten about them. How might these words have encouraged them? Have you ever felt as though God had forgotten you? If so, where did you find encouragement during that time?
Loving God, there are times when I feel so distant from you. Reveal your presence to me, that I may always be mindful of your saving love. Heighten my awareness of you today. Amen.
Those who feel distant from God
Isaiah 51:1-23: The prophet Isaiah delivers the LORD’s message of comfort.