Has the Lord Forsaken or Forgotten Israel?
In the book of Isaiah, we read numerous times of how God will bless all the nations of the world. People from the far reaches of the world will run to Mount Zion and live in the Kingdom of the Messiah. The Messiah serves as a light to the nations. His Kingdom is for all people of every tongue and tribe. His salvation reaches to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).
All the salvation to the nations is good, but what does it have to do with Israel? What good are all the splendor and greatness of the Exodus, the conquest of the Promised Land, and the majesty of the reign of King David, if Israel lays in the gutter of life, abandoned, defeated, and has no significance in this world?
Is not Israel God’s first love? Is she not an apple in God’s eye? Or, was all that wonderful talk from God just words so He may use her to bring about the Messiah, and now that the Messiah is here, she is of no value to God.
As God is making much of the Gentiles, and raising up all the nations, Israel cannot help but think that their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, abandons them. God knows His people and He prophecies what they will say in the time period between Isaiah and the second coming of Christ. Isaiah writes:
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.” (Isaiah 49:14)
A History of Devastation
(Review the history of Israel using handout in the bulletin[i])
During the time of the Exodus, almost 3 million Jews are freed from the confines of Egypt, and eventually, they enter the Promised Land.
By the year 1000bc, the nation of Israel becomes the most dominant nation in the known world. All the other nations fear them, and they prosper with the abundance that exceeds today’s standards. During the time of Solomon, to eat from silver and not gold plates is considered being poor. They display the epitome of what it means to be favored by God.
But then, everything goes downhill. They stray from God. A civil war divides the kingdom. Within 300 years, as Isaiah prophecies 7 out of 8 men in Isaiah 4:1, they lose over 85% of their population to Assyrian and Babylonian armies. Israel is hanging on by a thread.
Around 500 bc, Cyrus of Persia serves as God’s shepherd to bring the Israelites back to their land. Slowly, they start to increase in number and the population within the national land of Israel increases.
After the return from Babylon, the Greeks and then the Romans, claim dominion and rule over the land. By the time of the Messiah, Israel has approximately 2 million people living in Israel. But they have no king and no power. The Romans are in control and they live in poverty.
What is interesting is that from the time of Cyrus until today, over 2/3 of Israeli history, more Jews live outside the land of Israel than those who live inside.
Tragically, in the year 1099, the nation of Israel is obliterated. It no longer exists as a nation. For those of you older than 70 years old, you were born before Israel reemerged as a nation in 1948. She did not exist as a nation for 850 years.
It is easy to understand how many people during the time of the Reformation, looked at the text we are about to read and think that there is no way God is talking about Israel, but He the promises of Isaiah 49:15-26 and say these promises are for the church.
Israel has yet to achieve the splendor and dominance she had during the time of David. As we review history, we see the nation of Israel is beaten and humiliated by all the other nations. Nations historically and even today seek to annihilate Israel from the face of the earth.
But, hold on. God’s work with Israel is not yet complete.
There is no mystery to God’s promises. It is always best to read the Bible without twisting the words to fit what we see. For hundreds of years, many people did not believe God’s promises were for Israel, but they interpreted texts like this as being for the church (Replacement Theology). During the age of the Reformation, Israel is not a nation. They looked at events and circumstances to interpret the word of God. We live in 2019. We see how God’s word may easily come to pass.
1- The Lord does not Forsake Israel: Israel is before the Lord continually
God responds to the words of Israel by giving six answers. The first answer is touching in its beauty.
God says to Israel:
15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. 16 “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.
God’s response is not like He gives in chapters 40-48 where He says that His sovereignty over nature is the basis upon which Israel is to have hope. He previously establishes He is all-powerful and able to deliver, now God says, I desire to deliver Israel.
God uses the strongest image of personal attachment we know, the bond between a mother and her baby. God says His love and affection for Israel exceeds a mother’s love for her child.
If that is not enough, God gives another example. He says that Israelites are inscribed on the palms of His hands. What God does is the opposite of what we may expect from a master-servant relationship. The master’s name is to be written on the servant’s hand. The servant should wear the brand of the master. God says the slave’s hand is written on the Master’s.
We are forever before God who loves us with an everlasting love. We are written on His hands. We must never allow our sense of God’s offended justice to obscure the truth from our eyes that God is love (Oswalt).
2- The Lord does not Forsake Israel: The Builders Will Build
Out of His love for His people, God will reestablish the nation of Israel. He tells them that, builders will hurry to enter the land and at the same time, destroyers and devastators will depart (Isaiah 49:17).
God says, “As I live,” declares the Lord. God swears to them on His life! As long as God is living, it will happen.
Look around Zion, and you will see your builder-sons coming. As they hurry and make their way into Israel, those who seek the destruction of Israel will rush to depart. All your land which was once desolate and destroyed will be rebuilt.
For all of eternity, the people of the world will enjoy living, not in New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, Dubai, Rome, or Sydney. No. The people will flock to the nation of Israel, and the most desirous place to live will be the crowning city of the nations, Jerusalem. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)
The Jerusalem God promises to be amazing is the promise of a New Jerusalem spoken about in Revelation. A place where there is considerable violence throughout history becomes the picture of peace. Nobody expects peace in the Middle East. We all will resort to the root of Jesse. His resting place will be glorious. It will be rest, a forever time of Sabbath. Jerusalem will be a place of peace with the Prince of Peace sitting on the throne. Only Jesus can bring about such a dramatic change.
We will live in an Israelite kingdom with Jesus, King of the Jews, sitting on David’s throne surrounded by Jewish elders. (We have no need to add visiting Israel to our bucket list unless we want to see the before and after picture!)
3- The Lord does not Forsake Israel: The Children Will be Many
Not only will God rebuild Israel, but she will become inhabited by Israelite people. For over the last two thousand years, more Jews live outside the confines of Israel than within her borders. That will change.
The children of Israel will return. It will be rapid and miraculous. Israel will hear words in her ears that she has not ever heard, “The place is too cramped for me; make room for me that I may live here.”
Imagine being a nation under so much pain and suffering that you say in your heart, “The Lord has forsaken me”? Nobody knows the travails of Israel. Nobody understands her heartache.
God understands. He will miraculously change her fortunes. Instead, of saying, “the Lord has forsaken me,” Israel will say, “Where did all these children come from?” The land will overflow with so many children that they will wonder from where they all come.
Notice the repetition of the word, “these.” “Who has begotten these, who has reared these, and where did these come from.” Israel is astonished.
Against all the odds the children appear. The children do not come from Israel’s worthiness. Israel is barren, an exile, and a wanderer. She is unworthy and incapable of such a blessing.
Israel will say, these are from the Lord. She will weep with joy as a woman who in her very late years finds she may bear a child. God will bless Israel with the greatest wealth any nation may have, and that is the blessing of children.
God promises to fill heaven with His children. It will be joyful, just like the holidays!
In light of God’s promise of blessing Israel with children, we need to grieve and mourn over God’s inevitable wrath against our nation for destroying over 50 million babies in the womb.
4- The Lord does not Forsake Israel: God will raise His Standard
God answers the question of where the children will come.
God says He will lift-up His hand to the nations and will raise His Standard to the peoples (Isaiah 49:22). We know from other passages in Isaiah (Isaiah 5:26; 11:10; 18:3) that the Standard God raises is the Messiah. When God raises the Messiah, the people of the earth will bring the sons and daughters of Israel back to Israel. Picture baby boys carried close to the chest and little girls carried on shoulders. People will enter Israel and say, “Look who we found. Your child was wandering around in our backyard, so we brought them home.”
Not only will the other nations bring home the lost Israelite children, but they will serve the people of Israel. Those who are noble, kings and princesses, become servants for Israelites. Kings will are guardians who make sure Israelites go unharmed (Hey Jacob, who is your bodyguard? Him, he is king of Brussels). Princesses will be the nurses who bind up and dress the wounds of the Israel people.
The days of people hoping Israel is annihilated come to an end. Anti-Semitism is abolished. Instead, people bow down with their faces to the earth before the Israelites. They will be so eager to serve that they are willing to lick the dust of their feet (Isaiah 49:23). God uses hyperbole to express that people will love Israelites.
Imagine, Israel is in a constant state of decline, ridicule, occupation, and annihilation since the day King David dies. For the past 3000 years, people groups are bent on the destruction of Israel. Suddenly, mocking and shame turn into admiration. Why?
The reason for the change is Jesus. It is because of Him that the mighty kings and princesses of the world bring the children of Israel home. They see Jesus on David’s throne and the strongest and most powerful people on the earth will gladly lick the dust off the foot of a Jew. People will be thankful to the Israelites for being the people who both preserve the Word of God over the ages and who bring to this earth her greatest Citizen.
It is no wonder the disciples of Jesus have high expectations. We have only a glimpse of the glories of Christ from the New Testament. Here, we have a picture of Jesus bringing Israel to her glory. Every promise of God finds fulfillment in Christ, especially those for Israel.
The Old Testament is a living word. From these pages, we capture a glorious view of Christ redeeming Israel.
Many prophecies of the Old Testament are yet to come true. Many promises are in the Old Testament. We see the faithfulness of God in the Old Testament. The foundation of the New Testament is the truth and doctrine of the Old. Don’t be a New Testament only Christian. God’s glory is proven in that He is faithful to fulfill His promises to His people.
5- The Lord does not Forsake Israel: The Lord is Israel’s Savior, Redeemer, and Mighty One
The Lord answers a question that will likely be on the lips of the Israelites.
“Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?” (Isaiah 49:24)
In the course of normal human affairs, the prey may not be taken from the mighty once they become prey. Nor are the captives of a tyrant rescued. But, God’s love and involvement for Israel is anything but normal. God is fully capable of contending with the mighty man and the tyrant. He says, “I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons” (Isaiah 49:25).
When God works, the oppressors will turn on themselves and are fed their flesh and drink their blood (Isaiah 49:26). God is not promoting cannibalism. He is using hyperbole of the worst possible imagery to make His point. Those who contend with Israel will get their due.
In the end, the world will know the God of Israel is God over all. “All flesh will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:26).
Those who contend with us and seek to shake us from our faith, who try to pull us from God, will have to contend with God. God is our advocate. Jesus is our champion. Those who stand against our faith face ultimate defeat. God will not allow our enemies to triumph because we are the bride of Christ. God saves us because we belong to His Son.
6-The Lord does not Forsake Israel: Israel Forsook the Lord
God finishes His response to Israel’s musings, “The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.” He jogs their memory and wants them to do their homework.
In essence, God says, check the paperwork Israel. What happened? Who is really at fault? “Where is the certificate of divorce which proves your innocence, or where are the creditors who may come to your defense and accuse me of wrongdoing?” (Isaiah 50:1).
The reason you are in your situation is your own fault Israel, not God’s. Iniquities and transgressions are at the root of Israel’s trouble. The original question at the beginning of this section (Isaiah 49:14) needs to be rephrased to ask, “who forgot the other?”
Why wasn’t a man home when God came to the door? When God called, why didn’t Israel answer? In other words, when Jesus the Messiah came, why did you not answer? When the Messiah calls out for you to come, why did you not respond? Who abandoned who? God never forgot Israel. Israel forgot God.
The reality is that despite their iniquities and transgressions, God will still ransom and deliver Israel. Even though they rejected the Messiah, God will show mercy and grace. It is His character. God is faithful to save Israel even though Israel is unfaithful to God.
Israel falls short. God is faithful, despite Israel’s unfaithfulness. Why? Because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
God is willing and able to rescue Israel and He does it for the glory of His GRACE!
God knows how we fall short, but we don’t put our faith in our being able never to forget or forsake God. We put our faith in God not forgetting or forsaking us. Our faith is in God.
If it was up to you to keep your salvation, you would have lost it within a week of being saved. He saves us and keeps us saved by the glory of His grace.
“Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, I dry up the sea with My rebuke, I make the rivers a wilderness; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.” (Isaiah 50:2-3)
Is God’s hand short? In other words, is Israel out of His reach? God would like to save Israel, but He can’t reach them because His arm won’t extend far enough. God has power. He can dry up the sea so the fish die. He can cover the power of the Sun. Neither the sky or sea can resist the power of God. God desires to save and God has the power to save.
God promises to use all the power and might at His disposal to ransom us. If the sea needs to be dried up, He will do it. If the sun needs to be made dark, God will do it. We know this is true because God’s Son is what is needed for our salvation, and God went through with it. Jesus is God’s mighty Captain who redeems and ransoms our soul. Jesus fights the battle to His death and wins.
What does God’s work with Israel have to do with us?
Be assured that salvation is accomplished by a loving and faithful God. We place our faith in Him, not ourselves.
The history of the world is not yet entirely written. We look forward to God’ completing the work He starts in us and the work He does with Israel.
God takes us, people, who are His enemies, and makes us a people who love Him. God will work the same miracle with Israel. When God finishes, the entire world will know, only God could work such a great blessing. It will be greater than the first establishment of Israel with King David. It will be the Messiah’s kingdom. And we will have the privilege and joy of living in the New Jerusalem with David’s heir, Jesus, sitting on the throne.
The eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, nor has it entered into our heart, all that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9)
[i] The Jewish Timeline from this website is included in the bulletin http://www.odyeda.com/en/