Summary: Isaiah uses four word pictures to show us that we ought to trust God because of what he’s like.


Isaac Butterworth

Isaiah 49:15-18 (NRSV)

15/ Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. 16/ See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. 17/ Your builders outdo your destroyers, and those who laid you waste go away from you. 18/ Lift up your eyes all around and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, says the Lord, you shall put all of them on like an ornament, and like a bride you shall bind them on.

I didn’t get involved in the church until I was a teenager, but when I got involved, I got involved. I would go by the church almost every day to see if there were something I might do -- any little task, any errand, any job. I loved my church quite a lot, and there was no place I had rather be than with those people.

Somewhere along the way, my pastor mentioned to me that, in a week or so, he was going with some of the other members of our church to an event in Dallas. Would I like to go? “You bet!” I said. And I couldn’t think about anything else over the next several days. It was like Christmas; it seemed to me that the day would never arrive. And when it did, I could hardly contain my excitement.

That afternoon, when I got home from school, I did my homework first thing. I did my chores, changed clothes, and made sure I was ready when my pastor showed up. We agreed that he would pick me up at five o’clock, so at five o’clock I was ready to go. I didn’t want anybody having to wait for me.

But, as it turned out, I had to wait for him. Five o’clock came, and he didn’t show. Five-thirty came, and I was getting worried. Six o’clock came, and I called his house, but there was no answer. Six-thirty came, and it finally dawned on me that I had been forgotten.

I was crushed. It was one of the most painful experiences I ever had. There was no one more important to me than my pastor. He had taught me so many things. He had helped me earn money to go to camp. He had even taken me with him on some of his calls. But I wasn’t going to be with him that night. He had forgotten.

There are some people we don’t expect to forget us, aren’t there? But the truth is, people are people, and all people sometimes forget. Isaiah, in our text, asks, “Can a woman forget her nursing child?”

It’s not likely, is it? But it is possible. Mothers, like pastors, are human. We’re all human. We’re all finite. In our text from Isaiah, the Lord grants this. He says, “Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”

It’s a reassuring promise, isn’t it. And it encourages us to rely on God like no other. What does the old hymn say? “The arm of flesh will fail you.” We dare not put our ultimate trust in the frailties of human strength. Only God is completely worthy of our trust.

Isaiah uses four word pictures in this passage to show us how trustworthy is our God. These images tell us that we ought to trust God because of what he’s like.


First of all, as we have seen, God is like a mother. Verse 15 asks, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?” We have already agreed that, while it is not probable, it is possible. “Even these may forget,” God says, “but I will not forget you.”

You’ve heard of self-defining moments, I’m sure. A self-defining moment occurs when something happens that determines your identity from that instant forward. Because of some event or incident, whatever it may be, you will never be the same again.

I had such a moment each time my children were born. I can still remember the first time I saw each of them. It was the most remarkable experience I have ever had. I fell in love with them instantly. I felt a physical sensation from the top of my head to the souls of my feet. I was overcome with joy. And I was now somebody I had never been before. I was a father, to be sure, but I was not just a father. I was Jonathan’s father. I was Catherine’s father. Each of these children came to have a place in my heart that would belong to no other.

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