Life is hard. Sometimes it sucks. We get so discouraged and depressed. Things happen so unexpectedly. A lay-off, car trouble, false accusations, cancer, miscarriage, sometimes, even the death of a loved one. Things seem so horrible and just when the crap hits the fan; you fall down a flight of stairs and break your left hand and right foot. I am joking, but really sometimes life just sucks. In these moments of real pain and disillusionment it’s easy to question God and his whereabouts. We feel abandoned, forsaken, and forgotten.
The remnant of Israel was feeling this way. They were feeling pretty abandoned. You see Israel had gotten itself into somewhat of a mess. God kept warning them to repent of their pride and idolatry, but they didn’t. God‘s anger was roused. He allowed them to go through hard times- Babylon came and conquered Jerusalem, tearing down her walls, and ripping her sons away. Families where separated, people scattered, enslaved and led off to Babylon. They were pierced through their lips and chained together, one by one. So that if one tried to run away the piercing would bust through the lips of everyman in the rank. It was a miserable existence. They were forced to due manual labor in the hot sun, often wondering where their sons and daughters were, wondering if their wives had been forced to perform sexually for the guards, or if they were even alive. Hope eluded them. The remnant repented, they sought after their God with tears and ash and torn clothing. Where was their Yahweh? Where was their deliverer? HE HAD NOT ABANDONED THEM. Can God ever abandon his people? NO NO NOT EVER. Lets look at the scripture:
The Servant of the LORD
1 Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.
2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.
3 He said to me, You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendour.
4 But I said, I have laboured to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due to me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with my God.
5And now the LORD says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honoured in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength—
6 he says: It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.
7This is what the LORD says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel— to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.
Restoration of Israel
8 This is what the LORD says:
In the time of my favour I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
They will feed beside theroadsand find pasture on every barren hill.
10 They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.
11 I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up.
12 See, they will come from afar— some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.
13Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
14But Zion said, The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.
15Can 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!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
Their hope was in the future. Despite their present circumstances, Isaiah tried to comfort them with words from the Lord. God could never forget Israel. He is raising up Israel. He is raising up a servant. Later we will see that servant as Christ. It is Israel, but it is also us. We are his servants.
As his servants God allows us to be polished. (v.2) by circumstances that are often miserable and seemingly unbearable God polishes us. But we look at ourselves, our state, our “exile”, during this dark night of the soul, when all this crap is in our face- our loneliness, or disillusionment…
And we say like Israel in v.4 “I have labored in vain.” We think we have been doing all of this for nothing. I mean look at this junk- No money, No person to love maybe, no evidence of our work. GOD WHERE ARE YOU? Where are you? Right here, right now.
In v.5 he reiterates his love for us. WE are chosen. He says that we are glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my GOD shall be my strength- not my ability, not my position, not my title- Some of us here need to say this out loud. GOD SHALL BE MY STRENGTH-NOT ANYTHING ELSE.
In verse 6 we see God’s plan unfolding HE wants to use us. He wanted to use Israel. He used and is Using Christ. To restore his people, to shine his salvation to the gentiles TO the ends of the earth! And even though men despise you, even though you have loathed yourself, even when kingdoms and authorities come against you- God has you in mind. AT the end all of these people will see his Glory and fall at your feet. Israel had been hated, but God chose them to bring his salvation. Jesus was hated, but God chose his to bring his salvation. You have been hated, but God chose you to bring his message of salvation. In verse 8, he goes on to explain about his plan. You see it wasn’t just for Israel, but for the whole earth- even creation itself. That should warm all of your green hearts- here today; God has a covenant to change all things.
Again God is saying that we have gone through all of these things to be able and ready to go into the darkness, to free the prisoners. We don’t have to thirst and hunger again, because in that Day God will sustain us! He is gathering his people, all his people.
God is merciful to the afflicted and he brings comfort. But we still live in the real world and we still get down. We say again in the midst of all our struggles- God has forsaken us! But he replies to us, through his message to Israel in verse 15. Even if your mother, at whose breast your nursed, forgets you- I YAHWEH, will never forget you- see your name is engraved on my hands and your walls are ever before me. This verse is of Assyrian slave owners and even late with some Greeks to tattoo their slaves. Sometimes they slaves would be tattooed with their owner’s name on their palms as a mark or even on their heads. The names of the owner’s written on a person’s hand served as a constant reminder of JUST to whom they belong. These guys would know for life and have this memory. This also deterred them for running away. GOD CAN NEVER RUN AWAY FROM HIS CHOSEN! Your name is on his hands- forever engraved on his palms. He can’t help but think about you 24/7.
Imagine if you will, GOD lifting his hand before his face (excuse the anthropomorphic illustration) but he does, and he sees your name. YOUR name. Dana, Kris, John, Jay, Terry, Connie, Nar, Brian, Tony, Meredith… he sees your name and thinks “OH, How I love You, Kris” “I could never leave you, Nar.” “I think of you all the time, Connie” – wow!
“Your walls are ever before me” Even though Israel was in exile and Jerusalem’s walls were crumbled down, God saw Jerusalem as it would be finally. A place where all nations would come. A place of beauty. A city on a hill, a shining light. God sees your walls- as they should be- Even if your life is crumpled down and destroyed right now…you feel hopeless and lost- God sees the future glory of you, his plan fulfilled. You will display his glory. You will shine, and be a light to your world!
So what is God’s tattoo? It’s us. Our names. His servants. He thinks about us all the time.
God has not forgotten you. He can’t stop thinking about you. He loves you. You are in the forefront of his thoughts. He sees you as you will be! God has hope in you!
I hope this message has encouraged you- and I hope it remains- Tattooed on your heart. Because your name is tattooed on God’s hand!