Reading for December 23rd

Isaiah 43-45 (Listen)

Israel's Only Savior

But now thus says the Lord,

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Cush and Seba in exchange for you.

Because you are precious in my eyes,

and honored, and I love you,

I give men in return for you,

peoples in exchange for your life.

Fear not, for I am with you;

I will bring your offspring from the east,

and from the west I will gather you.

I will say to the north, Give up,

and to the south, Do not withhold;

bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the end of the earth,

everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.”

 

Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes,

who are deaf, yet have ears!

All the nations gather together,

and the peoples assemble.

Who among them can declare this,

and show us the former things?

Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right,

and let them hear and say, It is true.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,

“and my servant whom I have chosen,

that you may know and believe me

and understand that I am he.

Before me no god was formed,

nor shall there be any after me.

I, I am the Lord,

and besides me there is no savior.

I declared and saved and proclaimed,

when there was no strange god among you;

and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.

Also henceforth I am he;

there is none who can deliver from my hand;

I work, and who can turn it back?”

 

Thus says the Lord,

your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

“For your sake I send to Babylon

and bring them all down as fugitives,

even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice.

I am the Lord, your Holy One,

the Creator of Israel, your King.”

 

Thus says the Lord,

who makes a way in the sea,

a path in the mighty waters,

who brings forth chariot and horse,

army and warrior;

they lie down, they cannot rise,

they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

“Remember not the former things,

nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

The wild beasts will honor me,

the jackals and the ostriches,

for I give water in the wilderness,

rivers in the desert,

to give drink to my chosen people,

the people whom I formed for myself

that they might declare my praise.

 

“Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;

but you have been weary of me, O Israel!

You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,

or honored me with your sacrifices.

I have not burdened you with offerings,

or wearied you with frankincense.

You have not bought me sweet cane with money,

or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.

But you have burdened me with your sins;

you have wearied me with your iniquities.

 

“I, I am he

who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,

and I will not remember your sins.

Put me in remembrance; let us argue together;

set forth your case, that you may be proved right.

Your first father sinned,

and your mediators transgressed against me.

Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary,

and deliver Jacob to utter destruction

and Israel to reviling.

 

Israel the Lord's Chosen

“But now hear, O Jacob my servant,

Israel whom I have chosen!

Thus says the Lord who made you,

who formed you from the womb and will help you:

Fear not, O Jacob my servant,

Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,

and my blessing on your descendants.

They shall spring up among the grass

like willows by flowing streams.

This one will say, ‘I am the Lord's,’

another will call on the name of Jacob,

and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord's,’

and name himself by the name of Israel.”

 

Besides Me There Is No God

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel

and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:

“I am the first and I am the last;

besides me there is no god.

Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.

Let him declare and set it before me,

since I appointed an ancient people.

Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.

Fear not, nor be afraid;

have I not told you from of old and declared it?

And you are my witnesses!

Is there a God besides me?

There is no Rock; I know not any.”

 

The Folly of Idolatry

All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

The Lord Redeems Israel

Remember these things, O Jacob,

and Israel, for you are my servant;

I formed you; you are my servant;

O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud

and your sins like mist;

return to me, for I have redeemed you.

 

Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it;

shout, O depths of the earth;

break forth into singing, O mountains,

O forest, and every tree in it!

For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,

and will be glorified in Israel.

 

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,

who formed you from the womb:

“I am the Lord, who made all things,

who alone stretched out the heavens,

who spread out the earth by myself,

who frustrates the signs of liars

and makes fools of diviners,

who turns wise men back

and makes their knowledge foolish,

who confirms the word of his servant

and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,

who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’

and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,

and I will raise up their ruins’;

who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;

I will dry up your rivers’;

who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,

and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;

saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’

and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”

 

Cyrus, God's Instrument

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,

whose right hand I have grasped,

to subdue nations before him

and to loose the belts of kings,

to open doors before him

that gates may not be closed:

“I will go before you

and level the exalted places,

I will break in pieces the doors of bronze

and cut through the bars of iron,

I will give you the treasures of darkness

and the hoards in secret places,

that you may know that it is I, the Lord,

the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

For the sake of my servant Jacob,

and Israel my chosen,

I call you by your name,

I name you, though you do not know me.

I am the Lord, and there is no other,

besides me there is no God;

I equip you, though you do not know me,

that people may know, from the rising of the sun

and from the west, that there is none besides me;

I am the Lord, and there is no other.

I form light and create darkness,

I make well-being and create calamity,

I am the Lord, who does all these things.

 

“Shower, O heavens, from above,

and let the clouds rain down righteousness;

let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;

let the earth cause them both to sprout;

I the Lord have created it.

 

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,

a pot among earthen pots!

Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’

or ‘Your work has no handles’?

Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’

or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”

 

Thus says the Lord,

the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:

“Ask me of things to come;

will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?

I made the earth

and created man on it;

it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,

and I commanded all their host.

I have stirred him up in righteousness,

and I will make all his ways level;

he shall build my city

and set my exiles free,

not for price or reward,”

says the Lord of hosts.

 

The Lord, the Only Savior

Thus says the Lord:

“The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,

and the Sabeans, men of stature,

shall come over to you and be yours;

they shall follow you;

they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.

They will plead with you, saying:

‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other,

no god besides him.’”

 

Truly, you are a God who hides himself,

O God of Israel, the Savior.

All of them are put to shame and confounded;

the makers of idols go in confusion together.

But Israel is saved by the Lord

with everlasting salvation;

you shall not be put to shame or confounded

to all eternity.

 

For thus says the Lord,

who created the heavens

(he is God!),

who formed the earth and made it

(he established it;

he did not create it empty,

he formed it to be inhabited!):

“I am the Lord, and there is no other.

I did not speak in secret,

in a land of darkness;

I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,

‘Seek me in vain.’

I the Lord speak the truth;

I declare what is right.

 

“Assemble yourselves and come;

draw near together,

you survivors of the nations!

They have no knowledge

who carry about their wooden idols,

and keep on praying to a god

that cannot save.

Declare and present your case;

let them take counsel together!

Who told this long ago?

Who declared it of old?

Was it not I, the Lord?

And there is no other god besides me,

a righteous God and a Savior;

there is none besides me.

 

“Turn to me and be saved,

all the ends of the earth!

For I am God, and there is no other.

By myself I have sworn;

from my mouth has gone out in righteousness

a word that shall not return:

‘To me every knee shall bow,

every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

 

“Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,

are righteousness and strength;

to him shall come and be ashamed

all who were incensed against him.

In the Lord all the offspring of Israel

shall be justified and shall glory.”