THE LORD GOD IS A PARTNER BELIEVERS CAN COUNT ON TO NEVER LEAVE US OR FORSAKE US
Stories of abandonment tug at our hearts. We might hear in the news of some poor newborn child that has been abandoned by its mother and found in some isolated spot. Our culture has trivialized abandonment when it comes to marriage vows – today a spouse can forsake their covenant partner and obtain a divorce whenever they please. I hate the radio commercial for the law firm Cordell & Cordell that pledges to help men in securing their assets during divorce proceedings – their slogan: “A partner men can count on!”
Illustration: During WWII six Navy pilots left their aircraft carrier on a mission. After searching the seas for enemy submarines, they tried to return to their ship shortly after dark. But the captain had ordered a blackout of all lights on the ship. Over and over the frantic pilots radioed, asking for just one light so they could see to land. But the pilots were told that the blackout could not be lifted. After several appeals and denials of their request, the ship’s operator turned the switch to break radio contact–and the pilots were forced to ditch in the ocean.
Talk about a feeling of hopelessness and despair
People can have a lot of fear and anxiety regarding the possibility of spiritual abandonment.
They look at their difficult circumstances and wonder if God has forgotten them and forsaken them. The southern kingdom of Israel, the people of Jerusalem – the city of Zion, found themselves in that position on a number of occasions throughout their history. During the Babylonian Captivity they will be tempted to imagine that the Lord is finished with them. As the end times approach and God brings in His harvest from among the Gentiles, the nation may be tempted to think that God has written off His people Israel forever. This account from Isaiah provides the Lord’s response to the insecurities and fears and anxieties of His people.
THE LORD GOD IS A PARTNER BELIEVERS CAN COUNT ON TO NEVER LEAVE US OR FORSAKE US
I. (49:14-21) ISRAEL’S INSECURITY –
GOD HAS NOT ABANDONED ISRAEL
A. (:14-16) Refutation of Israel’s Complaint of Abandonment
1. Complaint of Zion = Abandoned by the Lord
“But Zion said, The LORD has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.”
Constable: Having heard the promises that precede, promises that God will bring the whole world to Himself, Israel, personified as Zion, complained that the Lord had forgotten about her. What about the special relationship that He had promised she would always have with Him? That appeared to be over.
Motyer: the complaining voice of Zion contrasts sharply with the world song over the work of the Servant [v. 13].
Parunak: The first statement is theological: YHWH has abandoned me. The second is personal and more emotional: my husband, on whose love I depended, has forgotten me.
Looking at a relationship once thought to be permanent and secure forever, now broken apart to the point where recovery seems impossible
The result is that one is bereft of all resources and left alone to fend for themselves in the midst of very difficult circumstances
2. Refutation by the Lord = Attached to the Lord Forever
a. Refutation by Laws of Nature
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?”
Tender tone of rebuttal by God; we might have responded harshly
Think of how unnatural abortion is. The ultimate abandonment by a mother
Ps. 27:10 “If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.”
Ps. 13:1; 22:1-2; 42:9 (yet expression of confidence in these songs); Lam. 5:19-22
b. Refutation by Argument from the Lesser to the Greater
“Even these may forget,
but I will not forget you.”
Parunak: Even the closest of natural relations may sometimes break down. 2 Kings 6:28-29 records the pathetic situation of Samaria under siege, when a woman kills her son for food. But the Lord is more faithful than this.
c. Refutation by Divine Promise
“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.”
Constable: Some servants inscribed the names of their masters on their hands in Isaiah’s day, but masters did not write the names of their servants on their hands. Yet Yahweh had written (lit. engraved, cf. Ezek. 4:1) the name of Zion on His palms so that He would not forget her, but be reminded of her frequently.
B. (:17-21) Restoration (Regathering) Will Be Amazing and Abundant and Astonishing
1. (:17-18) Amazing Turnaround
a. (:17) Swiftness of the Regathering
“Your builders [sons] hurry;
Your destroyers and devastators will depart from you.”
Constable: The builders were the sons that Zion thought had been denied her. The Hebrew word translated “builders,” bonayik, is almost identical to the word translated “sons,” banayik, and may have been deliberately ambiguous to communicate both ideas. Originally only the consonants, which are identical, appeared in the text.
Parunak: The rest of the paragraph (:17-20) alternates between two themes: your children will return, and your adversaries will leave. The ABABA chiasm places the dominant theme, the returning children, at the center and extremes.
b. (:18) Spectacular Spectacle of the Bejeweled Bride
“’Lift up your eyes and look around;
All of them gather together, they come to you.
As I live,’ declares the LORD,
‘You shall surely put on all of them as jewels,
and bind them on as a bride.’”
Beall: The imagery in v. 18b is that of the city as a bride bedecked with the jewels of her sons coming back–her children are her glory.
2. (:19-20) Abundant Inhabitants – Cramped Confines in the Restored Promised Land
“For your waste and desolate places, and your destroyed land—
Surely now you will be too cramped for the inhabitants,
And those who swallowed you will be far away.
The children of whom you were bereaved will yet say in your ears,
‘The place is too cramped for me;
Make room for me that I may live here.’”
Beall: Vv. 19-21 indicate that even the desolate places of the land will be too small for all who will come back.
Rich Cathers: Israel will go from being a nation that was mourning the loss of so many people, to being a country with not enough room for all the multitudes coming back.
Martin: when the people returned from the Babylonian Captivity they were a comparatively small, struggling band. The return mentioned in verses 19-21 seems to be much larger and therefore probably refers to Israel’s return at the beginning of the Millennium.
3. (:21) Astonishing Blessing of Abundant Offspring
“Then you will say in your heart,”
a. Question of Origin – Who has originated all of these?
“Who has begotten these for me,
Since I have been bereaved of my children,
And am barren, an exile and a wanderer?”
b. Question of Nurture – Who has nurtured all of these?
“And who has reared these?”
c. Question of Origin – Where did all these come from?
“Behold, I was left alone;
From where did these come?”
Constable: Her many children will not simply be the product of her own fertility, but a supernatural gift from God (cf. Gen. 18:12-14; Ruth 4:13-17).
II. (49:22-26) ISRAEL’S DELIVERANCE AND EXALTATION –
GOD WILL REVERSE THE CURRENT GENTILE SUPREMACY
A. (:22-23) God Will use the Gentiles to Facilitate the Exaltation of Israel
“Thus says the Lord God,”
1. Commissioning of Gentiles to Help Israel
“Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations,
And set up My standard to the peoples;”
2. Role of Gentiles in Regathering Israel
“And they will bring your sons in their bosom,
And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.”
Beall: Vv 22-23 state that Gentiles will help bring Jews to the promised land, and Gentile leaders will serve the Israelites (v 23).
3. Role of Gentiles in Protecting and Nurturing Israel
“And kings will be your guardians,
And their princesses your nurses.”
4. Submission of Gentiles to Israelite Supremacy
“They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth,
And lick the dust of your feet;”
5. Divine Purpose
a. Glorification of Divine Name
“And you will know that I am the LORD;”
b. Faithfulness to Divine Promises
“Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.”
Think of how the Lord fulfilled that promise throughout history
Look at example of Ruth 1:16-17
B. (:24-26) God Will Deliver Israel and Judge Her Oppressors
“Surely, thus says the LORD,” [even though it occurs after first phrase]
1. Nothing is Too Difficult for God
a. Question Asked – Is God Strong Enough to Rescue His People From Powerful Enemies?
“Can the prey be taken from the mighty man,
Or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?”
Constable: Isaiah addressed an objection that some in his audience evidently entertained. Is it possible that Yahweh could really overturn the power of the mighty nations that scattered the Israelites and kept them from their land? Of course! God had already rescued Israel from one mighty man at the Exodus. Typically, mighty men and tyrants tenaciously cling to their prey and captives.
b. Question Answered – No Problem
“Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away,
And the prey of the tyrant will be rescued;”
2. It Will Go Very Badly for Those Who Oppress God’s People
“For I will contend with the one who contends with you,
And I will save your sons.
And I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh,
And they will become drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine;”
3. Divine Purpose
“And all flesh will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior,
And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
This reversal of Gentile Supremacy would require tremendous power on the part of God – a God who has been grievously wronged by the sins of his covenant nation.
III. (50:1-3) ISRAEL’S CULPABILITY –
GOD’S DESIRE AND POWER TO DELIVER NOT COMPROMISED BY ISRAEL’S SIN
A. (:1) God Did Not Abandon Israel –
Blame Attributed to Nation’s Rebellion . . . Not God’s Rejection
“Thus says the LORD,”
1. Bondage Cannot be Blamed on God
a. Did Not Divorce His People
“Where is the certificate of divorce,
By which I have sent your mother away?”
b. Did Not Sell His People
“Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you?”
Cf. Jer. 3:8-9
Motyer: The thrust of the two hypothetical situations, divorce and sale, is to ask if something irretrievable has happened, terminating a relationship. Marriage is a covenant motif (e.g. Je. 2:1-3; 3:1-2; Ezk. 16). Behind it here lies the dreaded possibility that the Lord’s covenant with his people may have suffered a final breach.
2. Bondage Can Only Be Blamed on Israel’s Own Disobedience
“Behold, you were sold for your iniquities,
And for your transgressions your mother was sent away.”
Constable: The Lord turned from addressing His “wife” to her children. Both figures describe Israel, collectively and particularly. This pericope is transitional, but it is more of a conclusion to what has preceded than an introduction to what follows. God has both the desire and the ability to save the Israelites from their sin.
Beall: Indeed, in the end time the Lord will restore Israel bountifully to the land with many sons and daughters, and the nations of the world will come and bow down to Israel in their redemption. Such is the ultimate glorious future for Israel. And yet, 50:1-3 goes on to say, in the near term, there has been a separation between Israel and the Lord, but the Lord did not initiate divorce proceedings against Israel; rather, it was she herself, because of her sins, who separated from the Lord. As is common in Isaiah, numerous rhetorical questions are put forth to the nation, in order to bring them to their senses. In vv. 1-2 alone, the Lord asks six such questions.
Here we have the answer to the question we posed as the title for today’s sermon:
What can separate me from the love of God? Only my sins … an once we have been united with Jesus Christ and His death has paid the penalty that we deserved to pay … the answer is Nothing can change my eternal standing of justification – having been completely forgiven by My Heavenly Father who will never divorce me or send me away
My God will never leave me or forsake me
Illustration Wathman Nee: Watchman Nee tells about a new convert who came in deep distress to see him. “No matter how much I pray, no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot seem to be faithful to my Lord. I think I’m losing my salvation.” Nee said, “Do you see this dog here? He is my dog. He is house-trained; he never makes a mess; he is obedient; he is a pure delight to me. Out in the kitchen I have a son, a baby son. He makes a mess, he throws his food around, he fouls his clothes, he is a total mess. But who is going to inherit my kingdom? Not my dog; my son is my heir. You are Jesus Christ’s heir because it is for you that He died.” We are Christ’s heirs, not through our perfection but by means of His grace.
B. (:2a) Israel Rejected God
“Why was there no man when I came?
When I called, why was there none to answer?”
God the Father has repeatedly come to His people through the message of His prophets; He has called them to repentance and faith but to no avail;
Lord Jesus took the initiative to come to earth; took the initiative to call the Jews to submit to His kingdom; but there was very little response
C. (:2b-3) God is Still Powerful to Deliver
1. Questioning of God’s Power = Are There Any Limits on God’s Power
“Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom?
Or have I no power to deliver?”
Why would you reject the only God who is powerful enough to ransom and deliver you?
2. Proof of God’s Power = His Control over Nature
a. Control Over the Vast Waters on Earth
“Behold, I dry up the sea with My rebuke, I make the rivers a wilderness; Their fish stink for lack of water, And die of thirst.”
b. Control Over the Vast Heavens
“I clothe the heavens with blackness,
And I make sackcloth their covering.”
Constable: The proof of God’s strength is His control over nature. The nature miracles of Jesus proved His deity (cf. Matt. 8:27; 14:33). In spite of the vast amount of water in the sea, God can dry up the sea. Even though the sky above is apparently limitless, He can make it dark. The images here recall the Creation and the Exodus (cf. Exod. 15:16; Deut. 26:8, 23-24; Ps. 77:15), but the point is that God has the power to change anything as He chooses.
Grogan: The argument from history is reinforced from nature, itself affected by the events associated with the Exodus. The judgment on the Nile and the clothing of the sky’s naked brightness with darkness (vs.3; cf. 45:7) are fit symbols of God’s power to judge Israel’s enemies.
Addresses both God’s desire (Will) and His ability (Power) to deliver His people
Oswalt: God lacks neither the desire nor the power to deliver his people. The only issue is whether they will step forward in repentance and faith to meet him when he comes and answer him when he calls.