People who live on the islands, listen to me. Pay attention, you nations far away. Before I was born the LORD chose me to serve him. He appointed me by name.
He made my words like a sharp sword. He hid me in the palm of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow. He took good care of me and kept me safe.
He said to me, "You are my true servant Israel. I will show my glory through you."
But I said, "In spite of my hard work, I feel as if I haven't accomplished anything. I've used up all of my strength. It seems as if everything I've done is worthless. But the LORD will give me what I should receive. My God will reward me."
The LORD formed me in my mother's body to be his servant. He wanted me to bring the family of Jacob back to him. He wanted me to gather the people of Israel to himself. The LORD will honor me. My God will give me strength.
The LORD says to me, "It is not enough for you as my servant to bring the tribes of Jacob back to their land. It is not enough for you to bring back the people of Israel I have kept alive. I will also make you a light for other nations. Then you will make it possible for the whole world to be saved."
The LORD sets his people free. He is the Holy One of Israel. He speaks to his servant, who is looked down on and hated by the nations. He speaks to the servant of rulers. He says to him, "Kings will see you and rise up to honor you. Princes will see you and bow down to show you their respect. I am the Lord. I am faithful. I am the Holy One of Israel. I have chosen you."
The LORD says to his servant, "When it is time to show you my favor, I will answer your prayers. When it is time to save you, I will help you. I will keep you safe. You will put my covenant with the people of Israel into effect. Then their land will be made like new again. Each tribe will be sent back to its territory that was left empty.
I want you to say to the prisoners, 'Come out.' Tell those who are in their dark cells, 'You are free!' "On their way home they will eat beside the roads. They will find plenty to eat on every bare hill.
They will not get hungry or thirsty. The heat from the desert sun will not beat down on them. The One who shows his tender love to them will guide them. Like a shepherd, he will lead them beside springs of water.
I will make roads across the mountains. I will build wide roads for my people.
They will come from far away. Some of them will come from the north. Others will come from the west. Still others will come from Aswan in the south."
Shout with joy, you heavens! Be glad, you earth! Burst into song, you mountains! The LORD will comfort his people. He will show his tender love to those who are suffering.
But the city of Zion said, "The LORD has deserted me. The Lord has forgotten me."
The LORD answers, "Can a mother forget the baby who is nursing at her breast? Can she stop showing her tender love to the child who was born to her? She might forget her child. But I will not forget you.
I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Your walls are never out of my sight.
Your people will hurry back. Those who destroyed you so completely will leave you.
Look up. Look all around you. All of your people are getting together to come back to you. You can be sure that I live," announces the Lord. "And you can be just as sure that your people will be like decorations you will wear. Like a bride, you will wear them proudly.
"Zion, you were destroyed. Your land was left empty. It was turned into a dry and empty desert. But now you will be too small to hold all of your people. And those who destroyed you will be far away.
The children who were born during your time of sorrow will speak to you. They will say, 'This city is too small for us. Give us more space to live in.'
Then you will say to yourself, 'Whose children are these? I lost my children. And I couldn't have any more. My children were taken far away from me. And no one wanted them. Who brought these children up? I was left all alone. So where have these children come from?' "
The LORD and King continues, "I will call out to the nations. I will give a signal to them. They will bring back your sons in their arms. They will carry your daughters on their shoulders.
Their kings will become like fathers to you. Their queens will be like mothers who nurse you. They will bow down to you with their faces toward the ground. They will kiss the dust at your feet to show you their respect. Then you will know that I am the Lord. Those who put their hope in me will not be ashamed."
Can goods that were stolen by soldiers be taken away from them? Can prisoners be set free from the powerful Babylonians?
"Yes, they can," the LORD answers. "Prisoners will be taken away from soldiers. Stolen goods will be taken back from the powerful Babylonians. Zion, I will fight against those who fight against you. And I will save your people.
I will make those who beat you down eat the flesh of others. They will drink blood and get drunk on it as if it were wine. Then everyone on earth will know that I am the one who saves you. I am the Lord. I set you free. I am the Mighty One of Jacob."