Feb. 22-24, 2014
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Isaiah 49:13-18
“WHEN YOU FEEL FORSAKEN AND FORGOTTEN…”
1. Count on God’s compassion.
2. Count on God’s commitment.
Isaiah 49:13-18 (NIV 1984) “Shout 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. 14 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." 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! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. 17 Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you. 18 Lift up your eyes and look around; all your sons gather and come to you. As surely as I live," declares the LORD, "you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.”
I distinctly remember one time I felt forsaken and forgotten. I was sitting in prison. Let me tell you how I got there. I was visiting a young WELS man from Texas who’d gotten himself into such serious trouble that he was placed in the brand new maximum security prison in Beeville, TX. To see him I had to arrange a visit with the prison chaplain. After I was frisked he led me through the gatehouse, past the barbwire topped kill zones and through massive sliding solid metal gates. He led me deep into the prison past the cells of the men in the regular population who whistled and hooted, banged cell bars and made nasty remarks as I walked by to the visitation cells for those prisoners kept in solitary confinement. “You only get 30 minutes,” he said. “I’ll be back to get you out.” Our visit went by quickly as I urged the young man to accept earthly consequences and rejoice in his forgiveness and release from the eternal consequence of sin. My thirty minutes was up. No chaplain. We kept talking. Then an hour. No chaplain. We kept talking. Then an hour and a half. No chaplain. I started to get nervous. Some loud buzzers went off. Sounded like alarms. Metal clanging like gates crashing shut. I asked the prisoner if he knew what was going on. No. Perhaps you can imagine how I was feeling. Forsaken and forgotten in a maximum security prison with a riot going on. But there was no riot and 30 minutes later the chaplain apologetically did come get me admitting he had in fact forgotten me.
Have you ever felt forsaken and forgotten? Isaiah prepared God’s people for a time when they would feel that way. He wrote around 700 BC. Despite his and other prophets warnings against idolatry the people of Judah would worship idols. They would receive a consequence of a temporary exile to Babylon around 600 BC. Temporary because God said it would be. But the people there would not think that. They would feel forsaken and forgotten--by God. Listen as Isaiah prophecies how they would feel. But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me."
Graciously God provided his people what they would need for that time and in so doing He provided for you and me. You might feel forsaken and forgotten by God. Is there some sin or some sins you have done that you feel are so bad you don’t want anyone to know and you think God still holds against you? If not now the day may come as you get closer to death or are in the midst of trouble that the Devil will needle you and torment you that God will not have you nor help you. Let this word of God be your comfort.
It teaches you to count on God’s compassion. “Shout 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.” God called on the heavens and earth to rejoice and sing. Now remember that when God’s people would come back to this they would be stuck in Babylon as a discipline from God for their idolatry. Discipline often feels like and looks like punishment but it’s not the same. Kids you need to know that. You hurt and feel sad when you are punished for doing something wrong. You need to know that most of the time your parents don’t enjoy giving you consequences. They know they need to for your good. Sometimes, it’s true, they are just mad. God never disciplines that way. What he did with His people in Babylon was for their good. They needed to know what God was thinking so He told them. He comforts. He has compassion. Remember that. Count on that. Hold to that the next time you are feeling punished by God, that He has forsaken you or forgotten you. The Lord takes no pleasure in our hurt, pain or anguish but only lets it last as long as is for our good, just like parents do with discipline, only God does it perfectly.
But we have trouble believing that like the people stuck in Babylon would have trouble believing it. So God gave them and us some pictures to help us to count on His commitment. "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne”? God wants us to know His rock solid commitment so He calls to our minds what is supposed to be the ideal of commitment love, that between a mother and her child. Normally that's a strong bond. Normally we see that as mama bear often comes out to defend her child. Sadly because of sin we all know of instances where a mother forgets her child, kills it before it is born, rejects it later in life as selfishness wins out over love. Even what should be the greatest commitment gets broken by people. But it’s never that way with God. “Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
Another picture. “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” God talks to His people like they are a city. He talks about engraving a picture of Zion, Jerusalem, which stands for the people, on His palms, like some people today do with tattoos to remember someone always. God’s picture here is also of commitment. “I have placed you in the palms of my hands so you know you are always on my mind and what my hands do will be for your good. Please don’t doubt that I have your good in mind. Please don’t cast aspersions on my commitment and love for you. Please trust my promises. They will come true.” For the people of Isaiah’s time it would mean this. “Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you. 18 Lift up your eyes and look around; all your sons gather and come to you. As surely as I live," declares the LORD, "you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.” The people in Babylon at the right time, God’s time, would come back to their land. They could count on it because God said so and God was committed.
God’s committed to you too. Brothers and sisters, this word of God is for believers who have broken hearts. I remember a Seminary professor telling his students to remember that there are generally more broken hearts in church than hardened hearts. Is that true for us? Are we a group of people who realize we’re just a bunch of spiritual screw ups and our best attempts at righteousness really don’t cut it? Do we know in our heart of hearts that we really don’t deserve goodness from God and the difficulties we have in life are what we justly deserve? Do our own sins bother us more than the sins of others so we conclude we really are the poor miserable sinners we confess ourselves to be? Is your heart broken? Are you feeling forsaken and forgotten? You can count on God having compassion on you and you can count and God being committed to you.
You can do that because of what He allowed His Son to do for you. I don’t get nervous about a lot of things but I have to tell you when I was forsaken and forgotten in that prison with what I thought was a prison riot in progress I was scared. But nothing that could have happened to me there can even begin to compare with what Jesus went through when He was forsaken by God to pay for the sins of the world. He did that for you and for me. All those sins we know make us unworthy of God’s love and help and care He has removed and taken away. He was forsaken so you and I get to know we will never be. You have the right to live that way. Endure hardships with a smile on your face. They will not last. God has not forsaken or forgotten you. He loves you. You can count on His compassion and His commitment. Jesus is your proof. Amen.