Zion said, The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me. Christ says: Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:14-16)
I remember seeing old wooden grave markers in a churchyard in Taos, New Mexico. But I couldn’t read the inscriptions because the names and dates were worn down by weather over many years. These were human beings, made in God’s image and likeness, precious in His sight. The grave sites were so sad. Nothing hurts more than being ignored, overlooked, or forgotten. Did anyone remember these people?
Here in Isaiah, Jesus bends over backwards to assure us that He will never ever forget any of His followers. You are Jesus’ little brothers and sisters. You who repent and believe on the Son of God are adopted children of the Heavenly Father. And He will never reject you.
Remember that I’m taking a Christ-centered interpretation to Isaiah because that’s how Jesus taught us to read the whole Old Testament (“OT”). Isaiah chapter 7 announces Christ’s Virgin Birth 700 years in advance. Isaiah chapter 9 tells us that Jesus will be God’s King with four names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah chapter 53 tells of Christ’s death and resurrection for us, paying the debt for our law-breaking and rising from the dead for our newness of life and our bodily resurrection on the last day.
Isaiah chapter 49 speaks of God including the Gentiles (non-Jews) in His wonderful plan of salvation. That’s what the Lord promised Abraham: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”1 And this is what Jesus came to accomplish: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree (cross).” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.”2
Philip Yancey, in Disappointment with God, says: Knowledge is passive and intellectual; suffering is active and personal. No intellectual answer will solve our problem of suffering. This is why God sent His own Son as His response to our human pain, to experience it and to absorb it into Himself. That’s the good news of Christianity!
But Jesus’ Followers Can Still Feel Forsaken or Forgotten
That’s what people express in Isaiah’s day and how many OT believers felt. Here are some samples from the Psalms: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?…Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my Helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior….Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless….How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”3 Have you ever felt that hopeless?
Yancey writes that we tend to think, “Life should be fair because the Lord is fair.” But God is not life and if we confuse the Lord with the harsh realities of living in this fallen world, then we set ourselves up for crashing disappointment. Many of us expect constant good health, or endless success, or problem free relationships, or something else that we don’t have right now. But the Lord never promised these things. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, “Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.”4
Yancey reminds us that the Book of Job teaches that you can say anything and everything to God. Throw at Him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment. He can absorb it all. The spiritual giants of the Bible wrestle with the Lord, but they never shut Him out. We can’t really deny our feelings for long or make them disappear, so we ought to express them to the Lord. That’s what people in Isaiah’s day were doing. And God can handle it. What the Lord can’t tolerate is ignoring Him or acting as if He does not exist. “In their pride, wicked people do not seek God; in all their thoughts there is no room for the Lord.”5
Let us not be like that, dear ones. Let us cast all our anxieties, complaints, and worries onto Jesus because He cares for us.6
Remember our key verse: Jesus says: Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:15-16)
Christ Takes Action on His Amazing Love
The Lord Jesus loves you and wants each of you who are His followers. He came 2,000 years ago to die on the cross and to rise from the grave to purchase you for Himself. Now Christ looks down upon you from Heaven and says–You are the apple of my eye, my chosen ones, my royal children, and I will never forget you.
All men, women, girls, and boys are natural enemies of God because of our sin and selfishness. We go our own way and ignore the Lord who made us and loves us. We wander from Him. That was the problem in Bible times and it’s the same today. The hostility has to be removed for us to be reconciled to God. Praise God, He took the initiative to save us through Jesus’ death and resurrection! God didn’t have to do this for us, but He lovingly chose to send His Son to be the Redeemer of the world! Now Christ is resurrected and alive forever. And He continues showing up in everyday ways. “Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with us to the end.”
Jesus is no longer with us visibly. Today we see Him through eyes of faith, and we can hear Him as we listen to His word, the Bible. But Christ is still with us, close to us, near through His Holy Spirit, connecting with us at the deep level of a good friend. Jesus empathizes with our weaknesses, because He has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet Christ did not sin. Whatever we are facing, Jesus knows how we feel. He has entered His Father’s presence to pray for us.7 By His Holy Spirit, Christ is still connecting personally with each one of us, every moment, every step of the way.8
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your promise to never leave us, forsake us, reject us, or forget us. Thank you for making us precious to the Holy Trinity and bringing us into your forever family. Thank you that you know how we feel on good and bad days. Thank you for praying for us. Lead us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. Hear us, help us, and have mercy upon us. Amen.
Notes (various translations): 1 Gen 12:3. 2 Gal 3:13-14. 3 Psalm 22:1, 27:9; 10;12, 13:1. 4 Ecc 7:14. 5 Psalm 10:4. 6 1 Peter 5:7. 7 Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25. 8 With help from Arthur Schoonveld, Christian Reformed Church.