49 Everyone, listen, even you foreign nations across the sea. The Lord chose me and gave me a name before I was born. 2 He made my words pierce like a sharp sword or a pointed arrow; he kept me safely hidden in the palm of his hand. 3 The Lord said to me, “Israel, you are my servant; and because of you I will be highly honored.”
4 I said to myself, “I’m completely worn out; my time has been wasted. But I did it for the Lord God, and he will reward me.”
5 Even before I was born, the Lord God chose me to serve him and to lead back the people of Israel. So the Lord has honored me and made me strong.
6 Now the Lord says to me, “It isn’t enough for you to be merely my servant. You must do more than lead back survivors from the tribes of Israel. I have placed you here as a light for other nations; you must take my saving power to everyone on earth.”
The Lord Will Rescue His People
7 Israel, I am the holy Lord God, the one who rescues you. You are slaves of rulers and of a nation who despises you.[a] Now this is what I promise: Kings and rulers will honor you by kneeling at your feet. You can trust me! I am your Lord, the holy God of Israel, and you are my chosen ones.
The Lord Will Lead His People Home
8 This is what the Lord says: I will answer your prayers because I have set a time when I will help by coming to save you. I have chosen you to take my promise of hope to other nations.[b] You will rebuild the country from its ruins, then people will come and settle there. 9 You will set prisoners free from dark dungeons to see the light of day.
On their way home, they will find plenty to eat, even on barren hills. 10 They won’t go hungry or get thirsty; they won’t be bothered by the scorching sun or hot desert winds. I will be merciful while leading them along to streams of water. 11 I will level the mountains and make roads. 12 Then my people will return from distant lands in the north and the west and from the city of Syene.[c]
The Lord’s Mercy
13 Tell the heavens and the earth to celebrate and sing; command every mountain to join in the song. The Lord’s people have suffered, but he has shown mercy and given them comfort.
14 The people of Zion said, “The Lord has turned away and forgotten us.”
15 The Lord answered, “Could a mother forget a child who nurses at her breast? Could she fail to love an infant who came from her own body? Even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you. 16 A picture of your city is drawn on my hand. You are always in my thoughts!
17 “Your city will be built faster than it was destroyed[d]— those who attacked it will retreat and leave. 18 Look around! You will see your people coming home. As surely as I live, I, the Lord, promise that your city with its people will be as lovely as a bride wearing her jewelry.”
Jerusalem’s Bright Future
19 Jerusalem is now in ruins! Nothing is left of the city. But it will be rebuilt and soon overcrowded; its cruel enemies will be gone far away.
20 Jerusalem is a woman whose children were born while she was in deep sorrow[e] over the loss of her husband. Now those children will come and seek room in the crowded city, 21 and Jerusalem will ask, “Am I really their mother? How could I have given birth when I was still mourning in a foreign land? Who raised these children? Where have they come from?”
22 The Lord God says: “I will soon give a signal for the nations to return your sons and your daughters to the arms of Jerusalem. 23 The kings and queens of those nations where they were raised will come and bow down. They will take care of you just like a slave taking care of a child. Then you will know that I am the Lord. You won’t be disappointed if you trust me.”
The Lord Is on Our Side
24 Is it possible to rescue victims from someone strong and cruel?[f] 25 But the Lord has promised to fight on our side and to rescue our children from those strong and violent enemies. 26 He will make those cruel people dine on their own flesh and get drunk from drinking their own blood. Then everyone will know that the Lord is our Savior; the powerful God of Israel has rescued his people.
49.7You. . . you: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
49.8my. . . nations: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
49.12Syene: The Dead Sea Scrolls; the Standard Hebrew Text “Sinim.” The reference may be to modern Aswan, a city in southern Egypt.
49.17Your city. . . destroyed: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
49.20whose children. . . sorrow: These “children” are Jews who were born in foreign countries during the time that Jerusalem was in ruins. Jerusalem probably stands for all the cities in Judah that were destroyed by the Babylonians.
49.24cruel: The Dead Sea Scrolls and two ancient translations; the Standard Hebrew Text “good.”
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