Isaiah 41; Isaiah 42; 1 Thessalonians 1

1 God says, "Be silent and listen to me, you distant lands! Get ready to present your case in court; you will have your chance to speak. Let us come together to decide who is right. 2 "Who was it that brought the conqueror from the east and makes him triumphant wherever he goes? Who gives him victory over kings and nations? His sword strikes them down as if they were dust. His arrows scatter them like straw before the wind. 3 He follows in pursuit and marches safely on, so fast that he hardly touches the ground! 4 Who was it that made this happen? Who has determined the course of history? I, the Lord, was there at the beginning, and I, the Lord, will be there at the end. 5 "The people of distant lands have seen what I have done; they are frightened and tremble with fear. So they all assemble and come. 6 The skilled workers help and encourage each other. 7 The carpenter says to the goldsmith, "Well done!' The one who beats the idol smooth encourages the one who nails it together. They say, "The soldering is good' - and they fasten the idol in place with nails. 8 "But you, Israel my servant, you are the people that I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham, my friend. 9 I brought you from the ends of the earth; I called you from its farthest corners and said to you, "You are my servant.' I did not reject you, but chose you. 10 Do not be afraid - I am with you! I am your God - let nothing terrify you! I will make you strong and help you; I will protect you and save you. 11 "Those who are angry with you will know the shame of defeat. Those who fight against you will die 12 and will disappear from the earth. 13 I am the Lord your God; I strengthen you and tell you, "Do not be afraid; I will help you.' " 14 The Lord says, "Small and weak as you are, Israel, don't be afraid; I will help you. I, the holy God of Israel, am the one who saves you. 15 I will make you like a threshing board, with spikes that are new and sharp. You will thresh mountains and destroy them; hills will crumble into dust. 16 You will toss them in the air; the wind will carry them off, and they will be scattered by the storm. Then you will be happy because I am your God; you will praise me, the holy God of Israel. 17 "When my people in their need look for water, when their throats are dry with thirst, then I, the Lord, will answer their prayer; I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them. 18 I will make rivers flow among barren hills and springs of water run in the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water and the dry land into flowing springs. 19 I will make cedars grow in the desert, and acacias and myrtles and olive trees. Forests will grow in barren land, forests of pine and juniper and cypress. 20 People will see this and know that I, the Lord, have done it. They will come to understand that Israel's holy God has made it happen." 21 The Lord, the king of Israel, has this to say: "You gods of the nations, present your case. Bring the best arguments you have! 22 Come here and predict what will happen, so that we will know it when it takes place. Explain to the court the events of the past, and tell us what they mean. 23 Tell us what the future holds - then we will know that you are gods! Do something good or bring some disaster; fill us with fear and awe! 24 You and all you do are nothing; those who worship you are disgusting! 25 "I have chosen a man who lives in the east; I will bring him to attack from the north. He tramples on rulers as if they were mud, like a potter trampling clay. 26 Which of you predicted that this would happen, so that we could say that you were right? None of you said a word about it; no one heard you say a thing! 27 I, the Lord, was the first to tell Zion the news; I sent a messenger to Jerusalem to say, "Your people are coming! They are coming home!' 28 When I looked among the gods, none of them had a thing to say; not one could answer the questions I asked. 29 All these gods are useless; they can do nothing at all - these idols are weak and powerless."
1 The Lord says, "Here is my servant, whom I strengthen - the one I have chosen, with whom I am pleased. I have filled him with my Spirit, and he will bring justice to every nation. 2 He will not shout or raise his voice or make loud speeches in the streets. 3 He will not break off a bent reed nor put out a flickering lamp. He will bring lasting justice to all. 4 He will not lose hope or courage; he will establish justice on the earth. Distant lands eagerly wait for his teaching." 5 God created the heavens and stretched them out; he fashioned the earth and all that lives there; he gave life and breath to all its people. And now the Lord God says to his servant, 6 "I, the Lord, have called you and given you power to see that justice is done on earth. Through you I will make a covenant with all peoples; through you I will bring light to the nations. 7 You will open the eyes of the blind and set free those who sit in dark prisons. 8 "I alone am the Lord your God. No other god may share my glory; I will not let idols share my praise. 9 The things I predicted have now come true. Now I will tell you of new things even before they begin to happen." 10 Sing a new song to the Lord; sing his praise, all the world! Praise him, you that sail the sea; praise him, all creatures of the sea! Sing, distant lands and all who live there! 11 Let the desert and its towns praise God; let the people of Kedar praise him! Let those who live in the city of Sela shout for joy from the tops of the mountains! 12 Let those who live in distant lands give praise and glory to the Lord! 13 The Lord goes out to fight like a warrior; he is ready and eager for battle. He gives a war cry, a battle shout; he shows his power against his enemies. 14 God says, "For a long time I kept silent; I did not answer my people. But now the time to act has come; I cry out like a woman in labor. 15 I will destroy the hills and mountains and dry up the grass and trees. I will turn the river valleys into deserts and dry up the pools of water. 16 "I will lead my blind people by roads they have never traveled. I will turn their darkness into light and make rough country smooth before them. These are my promises, and I will keep them without fail. 17 All who trust in idols, who call images their gods, will be humiliated and disgraced." 18 The Lord says, "Listen, you deaf people! Look closely, you that are blind! 19 Is anyone more blind than my servant, more deaf than the messenger I send? 20 Israel, you have seen so much, but what has it meant to you? You have ears to hear with, but what have you really heard?" 21 The Lord is a God who is eager to save, so he exalted his laws and teachings, and he wanted his people to honor them. 22 But now his people have been plundered; they are locked up in dungeons and hidden away in prisons. They were robbed and plundered, with no one to come to their rescue. 23 Will any of you listen to this? From now on will you listen with care? 24 Who gave Israel up to the looters? It was the Lord himself, against whom we sinned! We would not live as he wanted us to live or obey the teachings he gave us. 25 So he made us feel the force of his anger and suffer the violence of war. Like fire his anger burned throughout Israel, but we never knew what was happening; we learned nothing at all from it.
1 From Paul, Silas, and Timothy - To the people of the church in Thessalonica, who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be yours. 2 We always thank God for you all and always mention you in our prayers. 3 For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love made you work so hard, and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm. 4 Our friends, we know that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own. 5 For we brought the Good News to you, not with words only, but also with power and the Holy Spirit, and with complete conviction of its truth. You know how we lived when we were with you; it was for your own good. 6 You imitated us and the Lord; and even though you suffered much, you received the message with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. 7 So you became an example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For not only did the message about the Lord go out from you throughout Macedonia and Achaia, but the news about your faith in God has gone everywhere. There is nothing, then, that we need to say. 9 All those people speak about how you received us when we visited you, and how you turned away from idols to God, to serve the true and living God 10 and to wait for his Son to come from heaven - his Son Jesus, whom he raised from death and who rescues us from God's anger that is coming.
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