Fr. Tom Simmons, 3 Epiphany, January 22, 2017, Isaiah 49:8-16
Isaiah takes us into a very intimate place this morning: a conversation between God and his Servant.
If continues from last week, in the second of four “Servant Songs” in Isaiah that introduce us to this mysterious character.
In this conversation, God sounds really upbeat, but God’s people are down in the dumps.
We pick up where we left off last week extolling all the great stuff God will do for his people through the Servant.
Beginning in v 8 God’s going to repopulate the desolate heritages, liberating the captives, bringing home those dispossessed along a highway prepared for them.
“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.”
But all of this turns on a dime. Zion interrupts all this great stuff God is saying to express despair in v 14. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”
Remember that same thing last week?
God promising great things and the Servant saying, “Yeah BUT…!” I have spent my strength in vanity. Not seeing a lot of “success” here Lord! It’s a felt loss of purpose.
Same pattern here. God is promising great things and God’s people interrupt to say, “But the Lord has forsaken me and my Lord has forgotten me.” It’s a felt loss of intimacy with God.
And they have a lot of evidence to support that contention!
At that time, the city of Jerusalem was in ruins, the Temple on Mount Zion has been destroyed, so many Israelites have been killed, and the rest taken captive as slaves in Babylon.
Feels just a little teeny bit like…forsaken…forgotten.
You get that right?
Ever feel like that yourself?
Sometimes it really does feel like God has forsaken this old world of ours …or forgotten us.
I have a friend in my Boom Beach taskforce named Brian.
He and I were talking a month-ago about God. He said, “God and I have not seen eye to eye for many years. I used to be a God-fearing man but that’s changed over the years.”
Well it turns out that Brian’s mom died of cancer when he was 15. To him this felt like forsaken, forgotten by God.
Israel felt that way too. “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”
But God won’t let that lie stand.
He makes his case to the contrary. Check out his response in v 15. He makes two points.
First God describes his mother-love.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Some of us know what it’s like to GIVE this kind of love.
ALL of us know what it’s like to RECEIVE it. Thank you, moms! Let’s all say that together!
Is there anything more compassionate and competent?
God is saying “Even these forget…but I will not forget you.” Thank you God! Let’s say that together!
Now if that’s not strong enough persuasion… and for most of us its not… God makes his case another way.
Second, God describes us inscribed on his hand in v 16
That’s an interesting picture. I guess it means center of attention.
Like people with their smartphone.
Or like: “I know this city like the back of my hand.”
It’s living in the grip of God, under the protection of God, at the center of the affection of God. You hang onto something that’s precious.
Like a tiny kitten.
God says, “Your walls are always before me.”
Those broken-down walls he holds in his hand and he’s got plans to build that city up again. He’ll rebuild that city.
God’s making a strong case here isn’t he? But there’s more here. Let’s look a little closer.
When you think of the palm of God what comes to mind?
I think of Jesus with the nail print scribed on his hand.
“HE showed them his hands and his feet” as proof of his resurrection, as proof of his love, as proof that he’ll never leave or be defeated.
He wears those scars eternally. That’s the hand he’s reaching out to you. Hands of love. Strong hands. Scarred hands.
Jesus had been telling them a lot of things before that time that didn’t really sink in very deeply.
But when he showed them his hands and side, only THEN did they believe.
That’s powerful evidence … more persuasive than words.
è Why do we need to make such a case?
It’s because we have a hard time believing it.
I read about Karen Carpenter this week.
She was a very famous singer in the 70s and she had anorexia and bulimia and died in her early 30s. They say that no matter how thin she got she still thought she was overweight. No evidence could persuade her to the contrary.
People tend to have the same problem. It’s just hard to believe, at a gut level, that God loves us like this.
That’s been the case ever since the fall of Adam and Eve.
The serpent accused God to our hearts. Accused God of horrible things and those words sank deep in their hearts.
He insinuated that God doesn’t really love them. He’s just trying to limit you, use you.
Then he accuses our hearts to God. Making us feel worthless, and hopeless and abandoned.
There they were taking matters into their own hands instead of trusting God. There they were running and concealing themselves from God.
It’s very hard to persuade us to the contrary.
Here’s what I’d like each of us to do this week for the healing liturgy.
Take time today to pin-point places in your life where you are feeling forgotten or forsaken by God. If you are having trouble, ask God to help us see them.
Receive the anointing oil and prayers upon THAT very place.
Then this week, memorize verse 15-16 and meditate on it. Make a card and put it on your mirror. Apply this promise to those raw places where you feel guilt and fear, where you are desperately protecting yourself, or overachieving to justify yourself.