"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.'
"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!
"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.
"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.
"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.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)