Summary: Isaiah is encouraging us to rest in God's comfort and acceptance, to surrender ourselves into His engraved hands, to trust Him for tomorrow.
"Never Forgotten,” Isaiah 49:15-16 & 66:13 -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts (01/04/15)
“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…As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. You will be comforted in Jerusalem” (49:15-16, 23 & 66:13).
The Veteran’s Administration is under investigation for neglecting vets with medical needs. Unreasonably long wait times to see a doctor have resulted in several deaths. Those who’ve served our country feel abandoned. Have you ever felt forsaken and forgotten?
The prophet Isaiah addresses people who are feeling rejected and gives them the comforting reassurance of what may well be the strongest expression of God’s love in the Old Testament.
Most of us have suffered rejection of one kind or another: a failed marriage, being passed over for promotion, non-select for a school, cut from a sports team, or losing a job. A decade after losing the Presidential election, George McGovern was asked by a reporter, “When did it stop hurting?” McGovern answered, “When it does I’ll let you know.” When things don’t work out, it’s hard not to take it personally. When people don’t come to church, I take it personally; I know I shouldn’t, so this sermon is for me. Perhaps rejection is God’s way to help us make needed changes in our lives or at least our attitude.
You’ve likely read Madeline L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time. The book is a blend of young adult science fiction and fantasy from a Christian perspective. It was rejected by 26 publishers over a period of two years. The rejection was painful for Madeline. When the book finally got published, it was a best-seller, won the prestigious Newberry Medal, and became an instant classic that continues to sell. Many people have spoken about how influential the novel has been. Years later at a party in New York City, a head of a publishing firm approached Madeline and said, “I wish you had sent your manuscript to us,” and she responded bluntly, “I did.”
The pain of rejection attacks our sense of worth. Yet God accepts us; He does not forsake us. We are precious in His sight. We may not feel like a treasure--yet we are! We have dignity and worth because we’ve been formed “in His image.” And when we’re hurting, God embraces us. “Sometimes a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it’s as though a voice were saying, ‘You are accepted’.” (Paul Tillich). Isaiah portrays Israel as a nursing infant, entirely dependent on the Lord. We talk of the “Fatherhood of God” but there’s also a maternal aspect of His nature as well.
Yet why would we need God’s comfort if our lives are already pretty comfortable? Comfort can cause spiritual apathy. Preaching has been defined as “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” We’re not going to seek God’s comfort if we’re self-satisfied.