Isaiah 43; Isaiah 44; 1 Thessalonians 2

1 Israel, the Lord who created you says, "Do not be afraid - I will save you. I have called you by name - you are mine. 2 When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you. I will give up Egypt to set you free; I will give up Ethiopia and Seba. 4 I will give up whole nations to save your life, because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honor. 5 Do not be afraid - I am with you! "From the distant east and the farthest west I will bring your people home. 6 I will tell the north to let them go and the south not to hold them back. Let my people return from distant lands, from every part of the world. 7 They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory." 8 God says, "Summon my people to court. They have eyes, but they are blind; they have ears, but they are deaf! 9 Summon the nations to come to the trial. Which of their gods can predict the future? Which of them foretold what is happening now? Let these gods bring in their witnesses to prove that they are right, to testify to the truth of their words. 10 "People of Israel, you are my witnesses; I chose you to be my servant, so that you would know me and believe in me and understand that I am the only God. Besides me there is no other god; there never was and never will be. 11 "I alone am the Lord, the only one who can save you. 12 I predicted what would happen, and then I came to your aid. No foreign god has ever done this; you are my witnesses. 13 I am God and always will be. No one can escape from my power; no one can change what I do." 14 Israel's holy God, the Lord who saves you, says, "To save you, I will send an army against Babylon; I will break down the city gates, and the shouts of her people will turn into crying. 15 I am the Lord, your holy God. I created you, Israel, and I am your king." 16 Long ago the Lord made a road through the sea, a path through the swirling waters. 17 He led a mighty army to destruction, an army of chariots and horses. Down they fell, never to rise, snuffed out like the flame of a lamp! 18 But the Lord says, "Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. 19 Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already - you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there. 20 Even the wild animals will honor me; jackals and ostriches will praise me when I make rivers flow in the desert to give water to my chosen people. 21 They are the people I made for myself, and they will sing my praises!" 22 The Lord says, "But you were tired of me, Israel; you did not worship me. 23 You did not bring me your burnt offerings of sheep; you did not honor me with your sacrifices. I did not burden you by demanding offerings or wear you out by asking for incense. 24 You didn't buy incense for me or satisfy me with the fat of your animals. Instead you burdened me with your sins; you wore me out with the wrongs you have committed. 25 And yet, I am the God who forgives your sins, and I do this because of who I am. I will not hold your sins against you. 26 "Let us go to court; bring your accusation! Present your case to prove you are in the right! 27 Your earliest ancestor sinned; your leaders sinned against me, 28 and your rulers profaned my sanctuary. So I brought destruction on Israel; I let my own people be insulted."
1 The Lord says, "Listen now, Israel, my servant, my chosen people, the descendants of Jacob. 2 I am the Lord who created you; from the time you were born, I have helped you. Do not be afraid; you are my servant, my chosen people whom I love. 3 "I will give water to the thirsty land and make streams flow on the dry ground. I will pour out my spirit on your children and my blessing on your descendants. 4 They will thrive like well-watered grass, like willows by streams of running water. 5 "One by one, people will say, "I am the Lord's.' They will come to join the people of Israel. They each will mark the name of the Lord on their arms and call themselves one of God's people." 6 The Lord, who rules and protects Israel, the Lord Almighty, has this to say: "I am the first, the last, the only God; there is no other god but me. 7 Could anyone else have done what I did? Who could have predicted all that would happen from the very beginning to the end of time? 8 Do not be afraid, my people! You know that from ancient times until now I have predicted all that would happen, and you are my witnesses. Is there any other god? Is there some powerful god I never heard of?" 9 All those who make idols are worthless, and the gods they prize so highly are useless. Those who worship these gods are blind and ignorant - and they will be disgraced. 10 It does no good to make a metal image to worship as a god! 11 Everyone who worships it will be humiliated. The people who make idols are human beings and nothing more. Let them come and stand trial - they will be terrified and will suffer disgrace. 12 The metalworker takes a piece of metal and works with it over a fire. His strong arm swings a hammer to pound the metal into shape. As he works, he gets hungry, thirsty, and tired. 13 The carpenter measures the wood. He outlines a figure with chalk, carves it out with his tools, and makes it in the form of a man, a handsome human figure, to be placed in his house. 14 He might cut down cedars to use, or choose oak or cypress wood from the forest. Or he might plant a laurel tree and wait for the rain to make it grow. 15 A person uses part of a tree for fuel and part of it for making an idol. With one part he builds a fire to warm himself and bake bread; with the other part he makes a god and worships it. 16 With some of the wood he makes a fire; he roasts meat, eats it, and is satisfied. He warms himself and says, "How nice and warm! What a beautiful fire!" 17 The rest of the wood he makes into an idol, and then he bows down and worships it. He prays to it and says, "You are my god - save me!" 18 Such people are too stupid to know what they are doing. They close their eyes and their minds to the truth. 19 The maker of idols hasn't the wit or the sense to say, "Some of the wood I burned up. I baked some bread on the coals, and I roasted meat and ate it. And the rest of the wood I made into an idol. Here I am bowing down to a block of wood!" 20 It makes as much sense as eating ashes. His foolish ideas have so misled him that he is beyond help. He won't admit to himself that the idol he holds in his hand is not a god at all. 21 The Lord says, "Israel, remember this; remember that you are my servant. I created you to be my servant, and I will never forget you. 22 I have swept your sins away like a cloud. Come back to me; I am the one who saves you." 23 Shout for joy, you heavens! Shout, deep places of the earth! Shout for joy, mountains, and every tree of the forest! The Lord has shown his greatness by saving his people Israel. 24 "I am the Lord, your savior; I am the one who created you. I am the Lord, the Creator of all things. I alone stretched out the heavens; when I made the earth, no one helped me. 25 I make fools of fortunetellers and frustrate the predictions of astrologers. The words of the wise I refute and show that their wisdom is foolishness. 26 But when my servant makes a prediction, when I send a messenger to reveal my plans, I make those plans and predictions come true. I tell Jerusalem that people will live there again, and the cities of Judah that they will be rebuilt. Those cities will rise from the ruins. 27 With a word of command I dry up the ocean. 28 I say to Cyrus, "You are the one who will rule for me; you will do what I want you to do: you will order that Jerusalem be rebuilt and that the foundations of the Temple be laid.' "
1 Our friends, you yourselves know that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 You know how we had already been mistreated and insulted in Philippi before we came to you in Thessalonica. And even though there was much opposition, our God gave us courage to tell you the Good News that comes from him. 3 Our appeal to you is not based on error or impure motives, nor do we try to trick anyone. 4 Instead, we always speak as God wants us to, because he has judged us worthy to be entrusted with the Good News. We do not try to please people, but to please God, who tests our motives. 5 You know very well that we did not come to you with flattering talk, nor did we use words to cover up greed - God is our witness! 6 We did not try to get praise from anyone, either from you or from others, 7 even though as apostles of Christ we could have made demands on you. But we were gentle when we were with you, like a mother taking care of her children. 8 Because of our love for you we were ready to share with you not only the Good News from God but even our own lives. You were so dear to us! 9 Surely you remember, our friends, how we worked and toiled! We worked day and night so that we would not be any trouble to you as we preached to you the Good News from God. 10 You are our witnesses, and so is God, that our conduct toward you who believe was pure, right, and without fault. 11 You know that we treated each one of you just as parents treat their own children. 12 We encouraged you, we comforted you, and we kept urging you to live the kind of life that pleases God, who calls you to share in his own Kingdom and glory. 13 And there is another reason why we always give thanks to God. When we brought you God's message, you heard it and accepted it, not as a message from human beings but as God's message, which indeed it is. For God is at work in you who believe. 14 Our friends, the same things happened to you that happened to the churches of God in Judea, to the people there who belong to Christ Jesus. You suffered the same persecutions from your own people that they suffered from the Jews, 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us. How displeasing they are to God! How hostile they are to everyone! 16 They even tried to stop us from preaching to the Gentiles the message that would bring them salvation. In this way they have brought to completion all the sins they have always committed. And now God's anger has at last come down on them! 17 As for us, friends, when we were separated from you for a little while - not in our thoughts, of course, but only in body - how we missed you and how hard we tried to see you again! 18 We wanted to return to you. I myself tried to go back more than once, but Satan would not let us. 19 After all, it is you - you, no less than others! - who are our hope, our joy, and our reason for boasting of our victory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes. 20 Indeed, you are our pride and our joy!
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