“But Zion saith, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me, Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me.”
Zion was wrapped in darkness in the prophetic vision of Isaiah.
And small wonder it was. She had more than deserved to be wrapped in this mantle of darkness.
Scan the context, and shudder.
The measure of iniquity was more than full. The nation that was named for Jehovah had provoked Him to His Face, in that they whored after other gods, after the gods of the nations that surrounded them.
And doing that, they had turned their backs upon the Fountain of Israel. These two things always go together.
And then the prophets had come with their heavenly injunction: Where are the fruits of My vineyard, saith the Lord of Hosts? These prophets had spoken, wept, pleaded, but all in vain.
Worse than that, this perverse nation had mocked their prophets, derided their testimony, persecuted their persons and had killed some of them. We have heard the bitter weeping of Jeremiah and Micah.
Oh yes, this Israel had forsaken their God, the God who alone was able to deliver . . .
And what followed?
Well, what would you expect? You cannot have success when you turn your back to the Lord. You must needs be plagued all the day long.
He called, and His servants came: the hated enemy, the arch-enemy of Israel: Babylon, wicked, foul, proud Babylon.
And the heritage of Jehovah was led to a strange land.
The daughter of Zion finds herself in Babylon, between the two rivers.
And there come the haters of God with unholy glee in their hearts: they are going to have a good time with these aliens and their strange customs: Come, sing us one of the songs of Zion!
But no, we cannot sing the Lord’s song in a strange land! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, ere I sing in this God-forsaken land of the sons of the devil.
And with tears in their hearts, they look toward Judah and Jerusalem, so far away!
But they see no deliverance.
How could they expect deliverance, after such great apostasy.
Upon their own unfaithfulness they can expect nothing but the just reward of their deeds.
Oh, it was sad in Babylon!
But wonder of wonders, in that night of agony resounds the prophecy of God: Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God!
Notwithstanding their grievous sins, they hear the golden speech of God: “Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted His people, and will have mercy upon His afflicted.”
It is the shaft of brilliant light of prophecy that shines in the darkness in Mesopotamia.
Lift up your heads, O Zion, and rejoice ye daughters of Jerusalem: your God cometh; and His arm shall rule for Him. He is going to lead you like a flock; He shall gather the lambs in His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young!
So, wipe away those tears; anoint your head with the glad oil of rejoicing: your Shepherd cometh to lead you back to Jerusalem!
But no, Zion still weeps. She turns a deaf ear to the miraculous speech of God, the unexpected, the baffling speech of unspeakable love. God’s mercy on us? Oh no, how can that be?
Besides, look at the objective facts: we are in Babylon, far from the holy land, far from the city of God and our glorious House where our fathers served Him!
How, O prophet, can you speak of comfort, of mercy when the facts testify of our forsakenness. Oh no, but God has forgotten all about us, and He has forsaken us! Those are the sober facts.
And they continue to weep in Babylon.
How utterly foolish of Zion to act this way!
They have forgotten one thing: God changeth never! God is faithful from everlasting to everlasting, and with Him is no change, nor variableness, nor turning.
Jeremiah testified of just that. He came to the weeping children of Zion and said: The Lord Jehovah hath appeared to me of old, and I have listened to His speech. This is what He said unto me: I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee!
But it was foolish to continue to weep in the face of such comfort.
First, because it made their night still darker.
Second, because they robbed themselves of the only comfort in such straits.
Third, because it was contrary to reality, the reality of the love of God.
No, for Zion there was no cause to lament; no, not in the face of such wondrous prophecy.
And therefore the Lord enjoins the people of His elective love to look about them: they have but to look and they will see shadows, symbols of His own fond love.
What generation is without its mother and babe? You find them in the lowest hovel and in the most glorious palaces.
Did you ever see a mother that would turn from her darling babe?
Is there a mother that would not have mercy on her son?
Ah, if the whole world would say of that son: Lynch him! Destroy this dastardly wicked boy from off the face of the world! Then, if this culprit can escape the avenging mob, and sneak to the hovel of his mother, she will meet him with outstretched arms, and fold him to her breast, and say: My son, oh, my son!
Oh yes, mothers do have pity on their sons!
It is the sweetest picture in this sorry earth.
And God bids His people to look upon that picture.
But yet, it is possible that a mother be found who would cast off her son, and utterly forsake him in his misery. It is not likely, it is not probable, but it is possible.
And so God says: If they would forget, yet will I not forget thee!
Oh, dear reader, write those words on the posts of your doors; let them be for frontlets between your eyes; teach them to your doubting heart; inculcate them to the generations following: those words are sweeter than honey and the honey comb. I spoke earlier of themiracle of the love of God.
You see, the love of God and the faithfulness of that God are unchangeable.
And then is this the answer: God’s love is not subject to change because of reasons outside of Him.
Ponder that statement.
He takes reasons within Himself to love us. His good pleasure, which is as old as God is, is the fountain of His love toward us. And so it is not subject to change, even as our love and mercy.
Today I lie on my knees before the object of my love, and say: Thou art my life, my joy, my all! But tomorrow something happens, anything happens: there are a thousand possibilities; and I arise to detest the erstwhile object of all my adoration.
But not so God.
No, not even the sin of Zion can change the love of God.
And how Zion had sinned. She knows it; she is full of remorse, and cannot hope that God will ever forget.
But in the face of all that sin, the Lord saith: tell her that her iniquity is pardoned!
(We live anno Domini 1961, and I may add now: God will bear all our shame and sin, our curse and hell; till all is gone! till heaven is earned on His cross!)
What unspeakable consolation!
God has an image of His beloved Zion in the palms of His hands.
So have we.
Oh those pictures, those images of those we love!
But here is the difference: God has your photograph before you yourself appeared in history.
Before the world was made, He had your image in His palms, in His heart of hearts.
And you may rest assured that the image which God has with Him from eternity is beautiful. You are so beautiful in that image that God delights to look at you.
No, not as you appear now in history, for then your image is so ugly that you yourself turn away from it, and cry: O my God, who shall deliver me out of the body of this death!?
As we appear in history we are very ugly indeed.
God is at work. He labors throughout all the ages to make you in history as you are in His palms. Looking at the image of you in His heart, He fashions and fashions again. We call it sanctification.
And He will continue to fashion you, in body and soul, until you shall be just as lovely as He imagined you in His own heart before the earth sank on her foundation.
Be still, my heart!
God thinketh on thee!
And that’s enough!