Scripture - Isaiah 49
Psalters - 278, 241, 103, 399
When we confess our faith in Jesus Christ we confess a most beautiful truth. We confess a truth that causes us to sing and be joyful, to break forth into joyous chorus. We confess that the Lord has been merciful and has comforted us with a wonderful, amazing comfort. We state that Jehovah has loved me with a love that can never be broken. We confess a love of God for us that surpasses anything the human mind could imagine. God loves us with a love that is even greater than the love of an earthly father or mother for their child. Isaiah makes known that comfort in this chapter and specifically in our text.
These words of unspeakable comfort were written years before they would be appreciated. God knows what happens to His children far before the situations come upon them. God prepared this word of comfort for Zion especially when they would be in the hands of their captors. It was a dark night for Zion when the people were taken to Babylon and became slaves. This wonderful word of God penetrated the darkness as a bright, shining ray testifying of Jehovah's covenant faithfulness, even toward a straying people. "I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me."
God prepares that same word for us which we look at under the theme:
GRAVEN UPON GOD'S PALMS
I. GOD'S EVERLASTING LOVE
II. ZION'S VEXING DOUBTS
III. OUR ABSOLUTE ASSURANCE
GOD'S EVERLASTING LOVE
We read in verse 13: "Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth: and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted His people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted." The wonder of salvation is such a grand and glorious wonder that all of creation is commanded to break forth into singing. The wonder of redemption affects the whole of the creation as Romans 8:21 and Colossians 1:20 reveal. Jehovah has worked a wonder of wonders! He has taken a people with no life and has given them life! He has sent forth a light to the Gentiles. He has established covenant with His people. There is only one valid response to this wonder - that of rejoicing and giving thanks to God for the marvelous work that He has performed.
Isaiah brought this message to a people who were ungrateful. Israel was walking according to her own pleasures. She did not take interest in God's ways. Isaiah was commanded to bring God's wonderful word of hope to the people of Israel knowing full well that many would not hear. This prophetic word was meant for Israel when she would be in captivity. God brings this word to us who are often ungrateful and reminds us of the joy we have in Him. There are two reasons for the singing and joy.
First, God has comforted His people.
God has rescued a people out of the depths of woe and has given them assurance and comfort for this life. These people were destined to destruction. God looked down on them in His everlasting pity and kindness and rescued them out of all their troubles. The emphasis of this act is on God's mercy, as literally the word comfort in verse 13 reads: "reestablished his people." God has shown comfort in that He has once more established His people as His people. Those who fell in Adam and went with the devil have been delivered from their darkness and given new life in Jesus Christ, the second Adam. This ordaining is from eternity, not with respect to those who are Israelites according to the flesh, but to those whom He has chosen unto life eternal in Jesus Christ. These people are re-established as God's people, and therefore are comforted with the comfort that is beyond expectation.
Second, the Lord will have mercy upon His afflicted.
Mercy is compassion toward those in distress. God's people were in distress, they were in a situation without hope. God's comfort comes in the form of mercy. God's mercy is such that it covers His people and keeps them in all their troubles. The Lord is presented as the great protector of His people. His people will not hunger nor thirst according to verse 10: "For he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them." Regardless of the darkness of the night, Jehovah is present in His love and mercy.
God directs this word to Zion. Zion is the people of God, the church of all ages who rejoices and delights in her Lord and King. In the way of rejoicing and thankful living, Zion would show her desire to walk in the ways of Jehovah.
There were times when even Zion did not want to hear the words of Isaiah. Zion turned on God and followed after the idol gods of the lands. They had only themselves to blame for their situation. They provoked the Holy One of Israel. They followed after other gods, turning away from Jehovah. God's prophets were mocked, persecuted, and killed.
Isaiah is writing prior to the captivity, but his words are prophetic, having even more meaning if we consider the following history when the church was taken into captivity. Old and young, sick and healthy, all were torn from their homeland and taken into a captive land. Zion was brought into Babylon to sigh and weep some 70 years. Zion continues to be afflicted throughout the years of persecution and struggle. God prepared this word of comfort for Zion when they would be in the hands of their enemies far from Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. God prepared this word for His church of today who lives in similar times of idolatry, persecution, and struggle.
ZION'S VEXING DOUBTS
In response to God's wondrous message, Zion said in verse 14: "The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me." Zion is dejected and downcast. She refuses to see God's hand in her salvation. She will not acknowledge nor thank God for all the wonders He has wrought. Soon, she will be taken into captivity and these words take on even greater meaning. The measure of her iniquity will be filled and then will come the chastisement. Jerusalem is in waste. The temple is burned with fire. There is no regular public worship of Jehovah anymore. They are surrounded by mockers and scoffers. All the day long they hear the bitter words: "Where is thy God?"
What a foolish way for Zion to talk! She robs herself of the only thing that is able to comfort her in her night of misery. She denies the reality concerning Jehovah. God is our God regardless of our current situation. God is God and all is well no matter where or what.
We are tempted to share the concern of Zion. We rise up in unbelief, looking around ourselves and our situation wondering where Jehovah is. In the midst of a world steeped in sin and increasing in iniquity the people of God are being battered about. Few are interested in the truth of God's Word. There is great indifference for the truths of the Bible among confessing believers. The presence of God is not enjoyed by many. There are personal questions and concerns and struggles. We are required to bear weighty crosses and heavy burdens. We struggle to see the comfort and mercy of Jehovah. We focus on our present affliction. We dwell on the difficulties that God has placed on us.
God urges His people to look around! There is abundant proof that God loves them and that God will preserve them to all eternity. God gives that assurance through two simple, clear illustrations.
OUR ABSOLUTE ASSURANCE
God responds to Zion's doubts in verse 15: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." God responds to Zion and our doubt with a clear, simple analogy. Look at the millions of mothers. Does any of them ever forsake her child so that she would not have compassion on her little baby? Have you seen a mother give up her little baby? Deliberately Isaiah uses sucking child -- the little baby who is still nursing. Isaiah makes emphatically clear his reference with "one of her womb." The idea that a mother could forget her own nursing baby is unthinkable! And, yet they may forget. It may happen occasionally that a mother does forget her sucking child. This is a rare reality, but nevertheless, we read occasionally of it happening. There are such wicked mothers who will forsake their children. Occasionally we read of such in the newspaper or we hear of them on the news. The thought causes us to shudder, but yes, they may forget. God knows that mothers, by nature, are prone to all sin, and therefore He says, they may forget.
But, I will not forget thee! That, beloved, is the everlasting gospel of God! God's love and kindness are eternal, from everlasting to everlasting. He is God! He is Jehovah! All the difference is found in that wonder that HE is the Unchangeable, ever present, I Am! God's sovereign, unconditional promise of salvation is sure! God's promise is not conditioned upon the will of man. God's promise can not be thwarted by men nor by the devil. God will accomplish all that He has set out to perform. He stands far above even our earthly parents. They love us, but they may forget. Not Jehovah! In the darkest night, He remembers His children with an everlasting memory of love. Not even the streams and billows of sin and corruption that Zion commits can turn His love away from her. A mother or father may be turned away from their child in his sin, but not Jehovah from His children. He loved us while we were yet enemies - sinners!
This is one of the strongest, if not the strongest expression of God's love found in the Old Testament. There are those who claim that the God of the Old Testament is a fearful God, filled with wrath and vengeance, and it is only in the New Testament that we find love and kindness through Jesus Christ. We have God's tenderness set forth for us here in the Old Testament, exposing the foolishness of those who seek to make a division between the two testaments regarding God. The picture we have here is one of a tender love for one's child. God tenderly holds each of His children in the hollow of His bosom (Psalter 278 and Psalm 103). God feeds His little infants the milk of His word. They are the apple of His eye. They are the objects of His sovereign kisses, His hugs, His constant guidance. God leads them, He has sympathy for them, He cares for them, He provides love and firm discipline when necessary.
That, beloved, is here spoken of you! Is this your confession? Do you confess God to be the God of your salvation in Jesus Christ so that He will never forsake you, although you may be afflicted with great and numerous difficulties? Can you sing Psalter 278 with joy and thanksgiving, without reservation? Do you believe the wonder we sing in Psalter 203 ( Psalm 73), that to live apart from God is death, but to live in His presence, with his hand in our hand is the fullness of joy and life? It may feel as though everything is going against you; but are you able to lift your head and confess the love of God in Jesus Christ for you? But, you say, what is proof of God's love for me? Where do I find the confidence that His love is even stronger than the love of my mother?
God responds: "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." When we love someone, we have an image of the loved one that we keep close to us. God has your image with Him continually. Your image is graven upon the palms of His hands. God has placed an image of you as close to Himself as possible- on the palms of His hands. On the palms of His hands it is always close to Him and always before His face. He can not loose sight of you. You are always before His eyes.
What is the image that God constantly has before His eyes? It is an exact portrait of you and me in Jesus Christ. Thankfully, it is not a picture of what we are by nature- a murderer, adulterer, thief, liar. It is a picture of you covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. The image is a perfect image inscribed on the palms of His hands reflecting who you are by grace! It is an image of your perfection in Jesus Christ. The inscription on the palms of God is a picture of your holiness and righteousness in Jesus, your Redeemer. You are the perfection of beauty as you are engraven on God's hands. This image is the image of Zion that is eternally determined in Christ. God sees us eternally in Jesus Christ. That is the image graven upon the palms of His hands.
That we are engraven is significant. We are so permanently etched that the image can never be erased or blotted out. Nothing can separate us from Jehovah God. Our pictures and images will last a while, but eventually they are outdated or no longer available. God decrees and ordains His people in such a way that their image in Christ is permanently graven upon His palms. He loves them and they are the objects of His affection. He loves them with an unchanging and eternal love. So deeply are we graven, that we are eternally chosen in God's love to be the perfect image of Jesus Christ. We are eternally secure! The New Testament sets forth the same teaching in John 10:28,29: "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
The second analogy that God uses is that expressed in the last part of verse 16: "Thy walls are continually before me." The term walls is used here as a memorial that continually reminds God of His Zion. Although the forces of unbelief, indifference, and ignorance attempt to overthrow the church, yet God is with her, for she is ever before His eyes. God wants to see His Zion continually as a memorial of His grace and glory. In Zion He sees the love of His only Begotten Son. In Zion He sees His praise and glory, and His handiwork. In you, God sees His glory and grace. You are an abiding memorial to the grace and glory of God. God has set His angels around us to preserve and keep us as His memorial.
What a glorious confession God has given to you and me! A confession that we can truly rejoice and be glad in! This is the greatest confession and most comforting confession that a person can make. Can you make it your own? This is the only confession that can give us true comfort and consolation as we live our life here below. It is not much comfort to merely know that the present night of darkness will pass. It may give us some temporary relief, but no ease from the present struggles we face. But, what a comfort to know that the faithful covenant Jehovah holds us in the hollow of His hands, and that He beholds us as precious in His sight!
May we join the heavens and the earth in singing and joy, for the Lord hath indeed comforted His people and hath shown mercy to His afflicted!
Rev. Allen J. Brummel (Wife: Crysta)
Ordained: November 1995
Edgerton, MN - 1995; South Holland, IL - 1998; Missionary in Sioux Falls, SD - 2007; Heritage, Sioux Falls, SD - May 2010
Address3210 S.Fernwood Ave.
State or ProvinceS.Dakota