Zion Not Rejected
Zion not rejected DIG: What are Isra’el’s doubts in 7:14 and 24? How does this passage answer them? Having children was important, both as a sign of ADONAI’s blessing and for provision for the future. What then does it mean that the people feel like a barren and widowed woman? What images does God use to respond to that feeling?
REFLECT: How do you react when you feel like the LORD has forgotten about you? Do you believe your feelings? Can they mislead you? Or do you rely on God’s word? Who could gain from having you feel this way? What can you do about it? When in your life have you felt barren and bereaved, and unexpectedly received a gift from God, and said in your heart, “Where did that come from?”
These verses contain Zion’s complaint, or her assertion, that ADONAI had forgotten and rejected her, saying: But Zion, or the people of Jerusalem, said . . . the opening word, but, argues that this thought is a continuation of the previous section (to see link click In – He Has Made My Mouth like a Sharpened Sword). In response to the promises of the restoration of Isra’el from Messiah’s perspective in 49 1-13, it is as though Zion was saying, “All that is really nice, but that has nothing to do with me because God has given up on me.” ADONAI has abandoned me; Adonai has forgotten me” (49:14 CJB).
Zion, pictured as a rejected and abandoned wife, is emphasized going forward (51:11, 16, 18-20, 52:1, 54:1-8 and 66:7-14). This foreshadows the expanded focus of Chapters 49-55. Although the metaphors of exile and captivity are still used, God no longer addresses the exiles in Babylon; however, the relationship of the nation to ADONAI, and the implications of that relationship, is emphasized.
Then God responds in a very beautiful and moving way, saying, “No, no! You have not been forgotten. Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you (49:15)! You are included in My plan of redemption. In fact, it is through you that it will be realized.” It is very seldom that mothers can forget or abandon their children. Yet as rare as this happens, from ADONAI’s perspective He will never forget Jerusalem no matter how bad it seems to look. His love is even greater than a mother’s love. Much the same point is made in Psalm 27:10, where we read: Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Why can’t God forget Jerusalem? He tells us in the next verse.
Sometimes we face struggles in life, and we are tempted to think that God has forgotten us. We may even believe that He no longer loves us. But the LORD’s love for us is as wide as the open arms of Messiah on the cross. And the tender compassion of ADONAI is more dependable and more lasting than the love of a nursing mother for her child. Be comforted: For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:5).
Then God uses a second image to assure Zion that He has not forgotten her: See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands (49:16a). This is opposite of the normal practice. Instead of the master’s name being written on the servant’s hands, the servant’s name is written on the Master’s hands. This is a figurative way of expressing that the LORD will never forget Zion. The City is represented as graven on His hands, so that its walls are perpetually in His sight, and thus the people of God, who are figured by the City, are kept in everlasting remembrance. A similar form of speech is frequently used in India to express one’s destiny. It is common to say, in reference to men or things, “They are written on the palms of his hands.” Remembrance of an absent one is expressed by a figure of speech used in this verse: “Ah, my friend, you have long since forgotten Me!” But have I forgotten you? Never!192
Quite a thought isn’t it? Your name written on God’s hands. Your name on the LORD’s lips. Maybe you’ve seen your name in some special places. On an award or diploma . . . But to think that your name is on the LORD’s hands and on His lips . . . could it be? Or perhaps you have never seen your name honored. And you can’t remember when you heard it spoken with kindness. If so, it may be more difficult for you to believe that ADONAI even knows your name. But He does. Written on His hand. Spoken by His mouth. Whispered by His lips. Your name (from When God Whispers Your Name, Nashville: W Publishing Group, 1994).
He cannot forget Jerusalem because every time ADONAI lifts up His hands He sees the name Zion. In addition, He says your walls are ever before Me (49:16b). He explains this phrase later in Isaiah when He says the walls of Jerusalem are continually before Him. How are the walls of Jerusalem continually before God? He says: I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth (62:6). There are angels standing around the walls of Jerusalem to this day. They have only one ministry; they are God’s reminder that He has made a promise that Jerusalem will be the praise of the earth, so that God will fulfill that promise. As a result, when God says your walls are ever before Me this is what He means. God has not forgotten Zion, and the proof that God has not forgotten her is three-fold. First, Zion is written on the palms of God’s hands.
Secondly, Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you (49:17). In this far eschatological prophecy the enemies of Zion, the antichrist and his armies, will disappear when the Sons of Zion ultimately return.
Thirdly, Zion was encouraged to lift up her downcast eyes and look around; all her sons will gather and come to her (49:18a). One of the reasons we know this is a far eschatological prophecy rather than a near historical one, is that not all of the Jews came back to Zion after the Babylonian captivity. In fact, most did not. Consequently, for all her sons and daughters to be gathered to her, it has to be during the Millennial Kingdom (the context is important, so see Iq – The Gentiles and the Return of Isra’el). Surrounded by her children, she asks, “How can this be?” God has sworn it on His own life, “As surely as I live, declares the LORD, you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride” (48:18b). During the Great Tribulation, the wretched old woman who had seemingly lost everything will suddenly have children all around her, wearing them like many ornaments. Zion will be clothed with Jews returning from all over the world. When they get there, what will happen? That’s what Isaiah describes next.
Zion will be restored. Here, then, is further evidence of her final restoration and that her sin had been pardoned. Though you were ruined and made desolate and your Land laid waste, Isra’el will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away (49:19). The Land laid waste refers to the places that will be devastated within the Land of Isra’el during the Great Tribulation. It is as if ADONAI were saying, “The antichrist and those who tried to destroy you will all be gone, and in their place will be so many Jews that the Land seems to be overflowing.” Although Zion will be threatened with total destruction by the antichrist and his worldwide army (see Kh – The Eight Stage Campaign of Armageddon), she will survive.
The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, “This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in” (49:20). So many Jews will return to Zion from all over the world, that Isra’el will be teeming with them. Babylon was not her final destiny. When reading Isaiah’s prophecy and looking into the far eschatological future the Babylonian captives would be encouraged by the abundance of their future.
Here we hear Zion thinking out loud, like an old woman’s astonishment over having children around her again when those she had borne were dead. As though she was too old to have any more children. And it is as if she is saying, “Where did these come from? Then you will say in your heart, “Who bore me these?” I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these – where have they come from” (49:21). I thought I was left alone. I thought I would have no more Jewish children to live within me. But look, they have started to come back.” One can imagine Naomi holding the grandson she thought she would never see saying something similar (Ruth 4:13-17). Are these children a result of something she has done? No, they are the gift of God. She did not bear them, nor did she rear them, so where did they come from? It could only come from the fruitfulness and the grace of God. This theme runs straight through the Bible, from Sarah onward.
In ourselves we are barren and bereaved, no more able to bring abundant life or eternal life onto this planet than we are able to give ourselves physical life. If abundant, eternal life is to be ours, it will be the gift of God, and we will look on in amazement, saying, “Where did that come from.” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).193