Attitude of Israel in Relation to the Promise of God
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 49. May I remind you that in our last lesson we considered the first twelve verses of the chapter. Those twelve verses presented to us a picture of the Servant of Jehovah, one of six such pictures which are included in the book of Isaiah.

We discovered, as we examined this picture of the Servant of Jehovah—namely, the Lord Jesus Christ—that the Lord Jesus Christ was discouraged. He was discouraged because it seemed to Him as though the ministry which He had undertaken was not going to be a profitable ministry. You will remember we noticed that in verse 4, when He said:

Isaiah 49

4Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God.

The Lord Jesus Christ felt that His ministry would be a failure because the nation of Israel to whom He came turned their back upon Him and would have none of Him. Notice how John portrays it in his Gospel:

John 1

11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

We pointed out to you that God the Father encouraged His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, when He said:

Isaiah 49

6…It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

God said to the Lord Jesus Christ, “It is too light a thing for You to be a Savior to Israel alone. You will be a Savior to the whole world, as well as to the nation of Israel.”

We would emphasize in verse 6 the word also because God went on to say that even though the nation of Israel, for a time, would turn a deaf ear to the pleas of the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, there would come a time when He would be given as a covenant to the people for them. It would be an agreement that God would lead them out of their unbelief into faith and into eventual salvation.

This was brought to our attention in verse 8, where we read:

Isaiah 49

8Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
9That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.

We noticed as we concluded our discussion on verses 1-13 that all the Heavens would eventually rejoice when the nation of Israel would be gathered from the far corners of the world, and particularly from the land of China, as is indicated in verse 12.

God Has Not Forgotten

In this discussion we want to notice the last portion of the chapter, beginning with verse 13. In this last portion we are going to notice the attitude of the nation of Israel in relation to the promise of God. God had promised a Savior. God had promised a Restorer. God had promised a Messiah. But the nation of Israel, from the time that she rejected Jesus Christ down through the ages even to this present hour and beyond into a greater hour of tribulation, will wonder if God could care and if God could understand because of the treatment which she had received and would receive. But God would encourage her that He has not forgotten.

I would like for you to keep that scene at the forefront of your mind as we read the Scripture which deals with it, and then we will go back over it, and see in particular what God might have for us. Please follow in your Bibles as we read the paragraph which begins with verse 13:

Isaiah 49

13Sing, 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.
14But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
15[But, God said] Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
16Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
17Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.
18Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the LORD, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.
19For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away.
20The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.
21Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?
22Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.
23And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
24Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?
25But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.
26And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

Having presented to you the general theme of the paragraph which we have read with you, we want to go back over this entire portion and emphasize some of the things which are basic facts in relation to the regathering of the nation of Israel and which will provide, I trust, a spiritual lesson concerning God's interest in us and His watch-care over us.

You will recognize in verse 13, a summary of the entire chapter when all of the Heavens are invited to sing, and the earth is invited to break forth into music because God is going to keep His promise made to the ancient people of Israel, when He chose Abraham from the land of the Ur of the Chaldeas and said, “I am going to make of thee a great nation. I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee.”

That blessing was slow in fulfillment. There has never been a people persecuted, there has never been a people tried as has the nation of Israel been tried. We do not need to depend upon the Word of God for that, for history bears it out. We were not at all surprised to read in verse 14 that Zion, which is another name for the city of Jerusalem and, being the name of Jerusalem has come to be one of the names of the entire nation of Israel, is saying:

Isaiah 49

14But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.

Don't read that verse too hurriedly. If you do, you will miss a blessing. The word, LORD, is repeated, but look at it carefully. Each word is spelled differently. The first word, LORD, is spelled with every letter capitalized. We have pointed out to you that that is an indication that it is a reference to God . The second word, Lord , has only the first letter capitalized. That is an indication that it is a translation of the Greek word Adoni or Master , the word that is most often used to refer to the Son of God. So we read here that Zion said: “God has forsaken me, and His Son hath forgotten me.” You can understand why they would feel that way.

Turn in your Bibles to Psalm 77. Have you ever been so tried, so burdened, so distressed, that you have felt surely that God has forgotten you? I daresay that if you have lived very long for God and if you have lived very deeply for Him, you have reached the place in your life where you have wondered if God really cared, or you have wondered if God was really interested in what happened to you. I suppose that you have felt very much as the Psalmist felt here in Psalm 77. Listen to the Psalmist as he speaks individually, as the nation of Israel spoke nationally:

Psalm 77

1I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.

That is his testimony. He said, “I cried unto God one day and God heard me.” This particular Psalm was written by Asaph. It was not written by David nor Moses, who wrote a number of the others. We might say to Asaph, “How was that? How did that come about?” In verse 2, he said:

Psalm 77

2In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.

“Well, what's wrong, Asaph? Did you forget about God? Did you think about Him? Did you turn to Him?” In verse 3, He said:

Psalm 77

3I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.

“How long did it last, Asaph?” “Pretty long,” he said:

Psalm 7

4Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I can not speak.

“What happened, Asaph?” He said, “Oh, the burden was so great that I could not sleep at night, and the burden was so heavy, I could not talk about it.” “What did you do then?” In verse 5, he said:

Psalm 77

5I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.
6I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with my own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

“What did you do, Asaph?” He said, “Well, I began to think about how good God had been to me in the past, and I remembered how in the midst of the night God gave me a song when there was no song to sing.” “What did you do then, Asaph?” Asaph said, “I began to search my heart. My spirit made diligent search, and I asked some questions.” “What were those questions, Asaph?” In verse 7, he said:

Psalm 7

7Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?
8Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?
9Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.

Have you ever asked such questions as that? Sometime in the midst of your problems and in the midst of your trouble, have you ever said, “Do you suppose the Lord has cast me off forever? Is God ever going to bless me again?” Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been to the place where you wondered if any good thing was ever going to happen to you again? Everything bad has happened to you that could happen. Could anything good ever happen again? You ask yourself the question, “Has God's mercy run out? By the time you get to this place, of course, you realize that you deserve it, and you know that if you had your just desserts, you would have it a lot worse, so all you can think about is the mercy of God and you say, “Has He run out of mercy? Is that why I am being treated this way?”

Then you think about all of His wonderful promises and you say, “Has His promise failed forevermore?” That means, “Are His promises not true? Can't I depend upon them? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Is He so angry with me that He has shut up His tender mercies forever?”

Well, Asaph felt that way. The nation of Israel felt that way, and Asaph solved the problem. We won't take the time to finish the Psalm. He recognized his own infirmities, remembering the works of old and the mighty God of days gone by. He realized what his problem was and that God was able to do something about it. Then God was ready and willing to work.

God Ready to Hear the Heartcry of Israel

Go back to chapter 49 of the book of Isaiah, and we find God ready to hear the heartcry of the nation of Israel. She said in verse 14:

Isaiah 49

14But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.

In verse 15, God compared Himself to a human. There are many comparisons of God to humans in the Bible. Some of them are favorable and some of them are unfavorable. In verse 15, God said, “Now, Israel, you listen. You think I have forsaken you. I want to ask you something.”

Isaiah 49

15Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?…

“Would a mother who nurses a little baby at her breast forsake that baby? Would a mother who nurses a baby at her breast forget to take care of it?” Well, God says, “Sometimes that happens. It is a rare thing. It is not an ordinary, everyday thing, but sometimes it does happen.” Then, God says, “I'm not like that. Even though a nursing mother, whom folk ordinarily would not expect to forget her child does, yet I will never forget you.”

May I remind you that though we are speaking of a nation at the moment and a national promise, the same thing is true of the individual in his relationship to God. God has promised never to leave nor forsake you as an individual.

Perhaps you are saying, “What right do you have to take a promise to a nation and apply it to an individual? You will find your answer in the book of Hebrews, chapter 13. The Apostle Paul, I think, is giving a bit of advice to the Hebrews that lived after the Cross of Christ. The advice that he gives in this chapter represents short, definite phrases. For example, in verse 5, he said:

Hebrews 13

5Let your conversation [manner of life] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

To be content with such things as you have is pretty hard to do, isn't it? How can you do that? By remembering the promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

When did He say it? Back in chapter 49 of the book of Isaiah, when He was talking to the nation of Israel and the nation of Israel felt that surely God had forgotten and forsaken them, God said, “I haven't.” Paul said, in the book of Hebrews, “Now, you individuals remember that too. Things are going to be pretty hard. It is not going to be very easy, but you be content with your lot and remember that God said, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you'.”

Of course, you should not neglect the next verse, because a promise that doesn't provoke a reaction in your life isn't worth the paper that it is written on, so we read in verse 6:

Hebrews 13

6So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

“You have the promise. Now, use it. How are you going to use the promise? Well, you just be bold. Don't you fear what anybody does to you, because the Lord said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.'”

The translation of the verse from Hebrew to Greek is much stronger than it is in the Hebrew, because when the author wrote it, he used what we call double negatives in Greek, so that you might read it this way: “I will never, never leave thee, and I will not, I will not, forsake thee.” In case there was any doubt about it, He said it twice.

He Engraved Us Upon the Palms of His Hands

In Isaiah, chapter 49, He said to Israel, “You are distressed. You are discouraged. You think that I have forsaken you. You think that I have forgotten you. I haven't. Do you think that a mother would forget her nursing child? She may, but I will never forget you.”

Then He gives another word of encouragement to remind us of how very interested He is in us. In the first part of verse 16, He said:

Isaiah 49

16Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…

“You think that I would forget you?”, He said. “Well, how could I forget you? I have written you upon the palms of My hands.” Not on the palm of one hand, but on the palms of both hands. Now, why did He do that? Well, remember now, He is comparing Himself with a man, and He doesn't want to forget you. He could never forget because He is God, but He is comparing Himself with a man as He often does so that we might understand Him. Sometimes He talks in human terms, so He says, “If you want to remember something, you engrave what you want to remember on the palms of your hands.”

Have you ever done that? I hope that you young folk haven't done it when you take examinations. It can be done. It is dishonest, but sometimes it is done. You know some facts for an examination that you are afraid that you will forget, so you write them in the palm of your hand. As you take the examination—when you think no one is looking—you get the information from the palm of your hand. You can't forget as long as it is on the palm of your hand. You ought not to do it. It is wrong, and it grieves the Lord and the Holy Spirit, so it doesn't do you one bit of good.

I'm just making a point. Why do you do that? So you won't forget. Now, here is something that you can do, and there is nothing wrong with it. You are making a speech, you can't use any notes, and there is a point that you want to be sure to emphasize. You can write them on the palm of your hand. Of course, if you use your hand as much as I do, it is really easy to see what is written on the palm of your hand. Someone will say, “That man speaks without any notes. He remembers everything.” He doesn't remember it; He has it on the palm of his hand.

God does something better than that. God not only writes it on the palm of His hand with a ballpoint pen, as I might sometimes do so that it won't rub off, God engraves you on the palms of His hand. Why does He do that? He said, “Because I don't want you to think for a moment that I will forget you. I will never forget you, for I have you upon the palms of My hands.” God said that for the nation of Israel, and He says it for you, and He says it for me. He can't, He won't forget.

Never a Moment We Are Out of His Sight

There is a third figure of speech presented in verse 16. You might pass over it if you don't notice it particulary, because it doesn't sound like it means very much. It says:

Isaiah 49

16…thy walls are continually before me.

You might wonder what that means. If you wanted to give it a light going over, you might say, “Oh, I suppose that refers to the walls of the city of Jerusalem,” but that is not what it is talking about. Literally, if we rendered it according to the original text, it is saying, “You are in continual existence before Me,” or better still, “There is never a moment that you are out of My sight.”

Of course, if we are not doing what we ought to do, we are not going to be too pleased with that. But, you know that if we are in a dangerous place or a difficult place, how encouraging it is to know that we are never out of His sight. We might not even have time to lift our voices and ask for His help. We might wonder, “Does God know what is going on?” God says, “Of course, I know what is going on. You are never out of My sight.”

Regathering of Israel

He said this to the nation of Israel, and after He had convinced the nation of Israel that He would not forget her, He begins to tell her what He is going to do. He speaks to the nation in terms of a city, and in verse 18, He says to Zion, the city of Jerusalem:

Isaiah 49

18Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the LORD, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.

He is saying, “Look at them. Great swarms of people are coming to you, and as I live, you will be wearing those people as a bride wears ornaments before it is over with.” Then you will notice He says in verse 20:

Isaiah 49

20The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, “The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.”

God pictures the city of Jerusalem as a mother bereft of her children. That is the state that she was in until a few years ago. It was a city that lay in ruin and waste with all of her children scattered to the four corners of the world. But God said, “When they start coming back and I begin to gather them back, there is going to be so many of them that they will say, “The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.”

I have said to you any number of times that it thrills my soul to be living in the generation that we are living in. To realize that the Word of God is being fulfilled, and what is not being fulfilled, the stage is set so that it soon will be. In our lifetime, we have seen the nation of Israel move back. We have seen the city of Zion open her arms to receive her children.

Now, wait just a minute. They are there in unbelief. They are not there acknowledging the Messiah, as they will; they are there in unbelief. But the door is open and the children are in motion and already they are complaining that the land is too strait for them. Already they are complaining that they don't have enough room, and that is the reason the skirmishes are occurring on the borders of Israel that you read about in the papers. No, it is not the complete fulfillment of the prophecy, but it is the beginning, and I want you to realize that. We are living in momentous times. God is remembering His Word, and His promises fail not.

The nation of Israel, recognizing the sad state in which she was when this prophecy was made, said in verse 21:

Isaiah 49

21…Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? [that has been their history for a long time, moving here and yonder] and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?

Then in verse 22, God takes the credit. He takes the glory:

Isaiah 49

22Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

Keep in mind that that prophecy, in some instances, is a continuous fulfillment. It takes a long time for it to be fulfilled. The first time that God lifted up His hand to the Gentiles, He made a signal to them with His hand. “All you Gentiles, listen now. Bring My people back to their land on your shoulders. Bring My people back to their land on your arm.”

The first time that God raised up that sign was after World War I. The land of Palestine was open to the nation of Israel and they began to go back to the land in the ships of the various Gentile nations of the world, so that, figuratively speaking at least, they were carried in their arms, and they were carried on their shoulders. It is continuing, and it will continue until at the end of the age when Jesus Christ comes. The ultimate regathering, which will be the fulfillment of this passage of Scripture, will be a reality.

In verse 23, He said:

Isaiah 49

23And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers…

He means simply that the rulers of the world will see to it that the nation of Israel abides in her land and the doors are kept open that Jews can go back from the four corners of the world.

He Will Deliver His Own People

We already see it happening. Let me emphasize that it is not the complete fulfillment of prophecy; it is just the beginning. How fortunate we are today that we can see the beginning. The fact that it is only the beginning is emphasized in verse 24, where we read:

Isaiah 49

24Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?
25But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.

That verse refers to the end of the age when the Antichrist and the rulers of the world at that time will be persecuting the Jews as they have never been persecuted before. They will be holding them in an iron grasp, and God Himself will contend with the contender. God Himself, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, will deal with the Antichrist, for he is the final contender, the final persecutor of the nation of Israel. When God contends with him, victory will be won. Notice verse 26, and see how He will bring it all about. You would think you were reading chapter 19 of the book of Revelation in miniature:

Isaiah 49

26And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine…

He is saying that He is going to turn them one against the other, so that they will kill one another.

You know, I have always been so grateful to the Lord for drawing my attention to things that do happen as illustrations of the Word of God. For example, you read in the Scriptures how armies would kill their own men. They would turn upon one another and annihilate their own armies. You would read about that, and you would say, “How in the world does a foolish thing like that happen?” How many times have you picked up your paper and read how in the military our own men have been killed through a mistake? You multiply that, and you make that army-wide, and you will have an illustration of what is here in verse 26. God will turn the armies of the world, who are ready to pounce upon this little Jewish nation, and when it looks like there is no hope for them, God will turn the armies against each other, and they will slay each other. You keep your eyes on Israel. Don't be surprised at anything you read in your newspaper. That is where the center of attention is going to be. God will deliver His own people.

He Will See Us Through

What is the ultimate lesson? Certainly we need to know what is going to happen from a prophetic standpoint, so that we will know the course of God's plan, but there are two statements in this chapter which teach an eternal lesson that we must never forget. One of them is in the last part of verse 23, and everything that we have been studying in this lesson proves this, but the lesson can be learned in many other ways. The testimony can be given in a multitude of ways. Notice the last statement in verse 23:

Isaiah 49

23…they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

Israel was discouraged and distressed to the point of feeling that perhaps God had forgotten them. She was ready to give up. She was ready to quit. But, God said, “Hold on, for the victory is forthcoming.” God says the same thing to you. You may be discouraged even to the point of giving up. You may feel like you cannot stand another thing that is going to happen. I wish that I could tell you that it is not going to happen, but I can't do that. Sometimes I have stood in hospitals where, as far as human men could tell, death was on its way. I have had some loved ones, with mistaken love, say to me, “Will you go and tell them that they are not going to die? They will believe you if you go and tell them.” I say, “But, I can't tell them that. I don't know that they aren't going to die.” They say, “Oh, but tell them anyway.” I say, “I'm sorry I can't do that.”

I would love to tell you that you are not going to have any more trouble. I would love to be able to tell you that if you put the Lord first, you would not have any more trouble, but I can't tell you that. I can tell you that if you wait for Him, you won't be ashamed. Ashamed here could be better translated “disappointed.” You won't be disappointed if you wait for Him. He will see you through. He has never failed anyone, and He never will.

All Men Shall Know He is Savior

For the last lesson, look at the last statement of verse 26:

Isaiah 49

26…all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

Men may make fun of Jesus Christ now. They may laugh at the idea that God is the Omnipotent One, but there is coming a day when all men will know that He is the Savior. Men may laugh at you because you are simple enough to believe God, but there is a day coming when they will wish that they had been as simple as you are. That is what God's Word is saying. God will vindicate His name, and God will honor you, for He said, “I will never, never leave you, and I will not, I will not, forsake you or let you down.”


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