Zion Consoled

49: 14-26

    In the first half of the chapter we saw the final return of the Jews to Zion, or Jerusalem, from the Messiah’s perspective. Now, in these verses we see the Servant’s message of final salvation and restoration of Jerusalem, even as the armies of the antichrist are bearing down on them. Even though these events are in the far eschatological future, Isaiah was writing about them during his day.

    Zion is not just the city of that name, it is its people. Zion is not simply their home; it is their name, their identity. If Zion is ruined, so are they. If Zion weeps, so do they. And they will never be fully themselves again until Zion is restored to its former glory. It is hard for us to appreciate such a complete identification of a people and their city. There is nothing quite like it in our own experience. No earthly city has the same significance for us that Zion had for the Old Covenant people of the LORD.189 In the second half of the chapter we see the final restoration of Israel from her perspective. She is being consoled by the fact that the promises of 49:13 include her, and that she is not forgotten.

    The recurring theme in this passage is God’s attempt to overcome unwillingness on Israel’s part to believe what ADONAI says. This is particularly evident in the contrast between 49:13 and 14. God has promised comfort and compassion, but the people say that is not true because ADONAI had forgotten them. God promises that one day in the far eschatological future, when the Servant sets up His Messianic Kingdom, they will be in the Land and restored in glory. But it was not easy to wait on the LORD to fulfill His promises, especially with the armies of the world bearing down on them. This was especially true in regard to the promises of the Suffering Servant, who would defeat the power of sin and bring the Kingdom of God to the earth. It took about seventy years from the time the first captives were taken in 605 BC until the first return in 538 BC, but it took hundreds of years for the Servant to come. It will take thousands of years before He will return. The LORD’s timing is not our timing. Down through time, from Abraham’s day to Isaiah’s day, to today, there have been believers who never saw the promises of God fulfilled. They died in Babylon, they died before Jesus was born, or before He returns in glory. Nevertheless, they waited in faith. Thus, when Christ came there were people like Anna and Simeon who were ready to recognize Him (Luke 2:25-28). They were at the end of a long line of believers who had waited confidently, and in the end, their faith was not disappointed (49:23). If you wait in faith for Him you will not be disappointed, for ADONAI is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him (30:18b)!190

    Part of the reason that some of the Jews had lost hope was that they could not really believe in the LORD’s love for them. Undoubtedly there were a number of different types of thinking in that group. First, some frankly thought that God had treated them unfairly. After all, the people of Judah weren’t that bad. There were people around them who were at least as bad, maybe worse (Habakkuk 1). Furthermore, if their parents had been so bad, as bad as the prophets insisted they had been, then ADONAI should have punished them and not their “innocent” children. So this group would say, “If God loves us so much, we shouldn’t be in this mess at all.”

    Others admitted that God had treated them fairly. This generation was just as unfaithful as the preceding ones had been, and the LORD had given them exactly what was coming to them. Being as bad as they were and having failed God so miserably, they could not imagine that ADONAI could ever love a people such as them.

    Finally, there were those who said, in effect, “So what!” These people looked at their circumstances and concluded that the situation was hopeless. Whether they had gotten into this mess fairly or unfairly was beside the point. The point was that there was no way out. So the LORD could say He loved them all He wanted, but it simply would do no good.

    Those same groups of people exist today. You may know some of them. To those who believe they have been treated unfairly, God calls them to trust Him and rely on Him in the midst of their pain. Undoubtedly there will be individual Jews who truly do not deserve to be killed by the antichrist. Just like there are those today who do not deserve to be born into an abusive family, be poor or pregnant. These individual Jews might be people of faith who are living in obedience to the LORD, yet this terrible thing will happen to them. This would be the case with Daniel, his three friends, and Ezekiel. But the question in that circumstance is not, “Why?” and hold ADONAI hostage for an answer. Rather, it is, “What now?” and look to God for the strength and wisdom to go on. For them, the LORD’s declaration of love will be their lifeblood as they seek to cope with the unfairness of life. The fact is that we are part of a much larger picture than our own actions, and if circumstances do not turn out as we might wish, that is no indication that ADONAI does not love us or care for us.

    The second group longs for God’s love and forgiveness but simply believes that the LORD cannot forgive them for what they have done. This is sometimes a reverse form of pride: “What I have done is too much for the LORD.” But more often, it is an inability to forgive oneself: “God can’t love me; I am just so worthless. Nothing I say or do is worth anything.” They think to themselves, if I am this disappointed in myself, think how infinitely more disappointed ADONAI is. Sometimes the LORD is disappointed with us, but that does not change the fact that He loves us unconditionally. In the humiliation of admitting that ours is not the worst sin in the world and that our disappointment in ourselves is not the issue, there is a possibility of realizing that God wants to forgive us if we will only let Him. In receiving that forgiveness, there is finally the possibility of forgiving ourselves.

    The situation of the third group is much like that of the second group. If God’s love is to be experienced, it must be surrendered to. The pride that says, “My situation is hopeless,” is the one that refuses to believe ADONAI is greater than anything this world can throw our way. What God asks for is the opportunity to try. He asks us to test Him in faith, not doubt, and to allow Him to show us the love He has for us and to demonstrate that love can conquer any obstacle it meets. His arm is not too short to ransom us, nor does He lack the strength to rescue us (50:2).

    To all of these, the LORD says the same things as He said 2,700 years ago; He can no more forget us than a mother can forget her nursing baby (49:15). And we have even more evidence of that truth than Isaiah did, for when He speaks of the names of the faithful being engraved on the palms of My hands (49:16), we think of the nail scars in the hands of His Son. When He has done that for you, how could He forget you?191

 

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