It seems that this is what is taking place in Isaiah, Chapter 49.
Isaiah is proclaiming the wonderful news of Israel’s restoration (verses 8-13): God promises to re-establish the land of Israel (verse 8) and to bring the exiles back. They will be like sheep grazing in green pastures (verse 9). They will experience God’s mercies during their exodus back to the land of promise (verse 10). Their path back will be like travelling on a highway (verse 11). Many will join them. All God’s people will witness this and the heavens, earth and mountains will join them in songs of praise, “for the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering” (verses 12, 13 NLT).
It is at this culminating point of Isaiah’s message that the pessimistic interruption comes, “The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us” (verse 14 NLT)!
What can a preacher say when this happens? What can you say when you know there are valid reasons for this charge? What can we say when we know that even in our days there are so many people whose experiences are reflected by verse 14 and not by verses 9 or 10? (For example: people in Zimbabwe, foreigners in Johannesburg, people struggling to live with HIV far from good medical care, etc.)
Isaiah knows how to respond. The answer he gives comforts every one of us when we want to give in to hopelessness. For God says:
“Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible,
I would not forget you!
See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins (verses 15-16 NLT).
To think about (or discuss): What picture comes to your mind when you hear God say “I have written your name on the palms of my hands”?