Isaiah 49:15 “Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
This seems like an odd place in the Bible to go if someone wants to know about Christmas. We all tend to go to the New Testament. We like to read the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds in the field, when they announce the birth of Jesus Christ in the manger. But while Jesus was on this earth, He told the Jewish crowds that when they studied their Old Testament to search for how if to gain eternal life, they needed to search for Him there, because the Old Testament is a book all about Him: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they that testify of Me” (John 5:39).
There isn’t a much better place to see the Christmas story unfold than the Old Testament book of Isaiah. But it will depend on what you want to know about Christmas. There are some of us who have lost loved ones. They hold on to memories, and they wish others who knew their loved ones wouldn’t forget them.
A friend of mine lost their teenage son this year. She posted this to her friends recently: “If you know someone who has lost a very important person in their life, and you’re afraid to mention it because you think you may make the person sad because you reminded them of someone who died – you’re not reminding them; they didn’t forget. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that the person lived. And that is a great, great gift.” She means it is a gift for her that she is not alone in her memories of her son. And another good friend, who lost a daughter two years ago, responded how she understands because she knows as time goes by peoples’ memories of her daughter fade. We, as frail people, forget.
But the 49th chapter of Isaiah is a turning point. Both in the history of Israel and the entire world. Especially to families who have lost loved ones here on Earth. Because it is here that the promise of the Christmas season is given to us. The context of our verse this week begins in verse 14, as Israel believes God has forgotten His promises to them, as they are under siege by pagan nations around them: “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” Listen to how God answers them in verses 15-16: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” Did you catch that? He doesn’t just remember us. Like a teenager who writes someone’s phone number of their hand so they don’t forget it, God has us permanently etched in His mind.
But this wasn’t a message just for Jews. Go back a few verses to verse 6: “I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” Gentiles? That’s non-Jews. The ends of the earth? That’s everywhere, including Lees Summit, Missouri. Including my dear friends who have lost their loved ones here on earth. So how is this Christmas season revealed in Isaiah 49?
Look very closely at what He is saying to us – He promised (“I will”) to give Someone to us, as not only our light but our salvation. Who is this Someone? Back to John 5:39 – Jesus told us to search these Old Testament scriptures to find the answer, and that answer would be fulfilled in Him! You must cling to the promises of God, and Isaiah 49 is packed with promises that, although the memory of a loved one might fade on earth, it cannot fade with our Heavenly Father! In fact, verse 13 tells us to sing with joy because our God comforts His children, and He promises (“I will”) to be full of mercy and lovingkindness to those who are afflicted wih the pain and sorrow of loss: “Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted.”
Isaiah 49 a turning point in two ways. First, the chapter ends with God’s promise that he will save us: “I, the Lord, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Might One of Jacob.” And secondly, His promised Savior in verse 6 is revealed to us in chapters 50-53. Before we go there, we now need to tie in the message from those angels to the shepherds in the fields to get this Person’s name: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). It is in chapters 50-53 we learn what happens to Christ.
God promises that Jesus Christ will suffer at the hands of others for the sins we have committed: “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). God fulfills His promise to all mankind by sending His only Son to us as His offering that can reunite us. Even if we forget one another over time, He will never forget even one of us, to the point of inscribing us on the palms of His hands, That’s Christmas.
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #276 – December 31, 2017