Covenant Love Wins
“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies” (Psa. 36:5).
Read ISAIAH 49:8–26
8 This is what the Lord says:
“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land
and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
“They will feed beside the roads
and find pasture on every barren hill.
10 They will neither hunger nor thirst,
nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them.
He who has compassion on them will guide them
and lead them beside springs of water.
11 I will turn all my mountains into roads,
and my highways will be raised up.
12 See, they will come from afar—
some from the north, some from the west,
some from the region of Aswan.”
13 Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you 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 children hasten back,
and those who laid you waste depart from you.
18 Lift up your eyes and look around;
all your children 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.
19 “Though you were ruined and made desolate
and your land laid waste,
now you will be too small for your people,
and those who devoured you will be far away.
20 The children born during your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing,
‘This place is too small for us;
give us more space to live in.’
21 Then you will say in your heart,
‘Who bore me these?
I was bereaved and barren;
I was exiled and rejected.
Who brought these up?
I was left all alone,
but these—where have they come from?’”
22 This is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“See, I will beckon to the nations,
I will lift up my banner to the peoples;
they will bring your sons in their arms
and carry your daughters on their hips.
23 Kings will be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground;
they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
24 Can plunder be taken from warriors,
or captives be rescued from the fierce?
25 But this is what the Lord says:
“Yes, captives will be taken from warriors,
and plunder retrieved from the fierce;
I will contend with those who contend with you,
and your children I will save.
26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh;
they will be drunk on their own blood, as with wine.
Then all mankind will know
that I, the Lord, am your Savior,
your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
What won’t a mother do for her child? Consider the mothers in the New Testament who exhibited exaggerated behavior on behalf of their children.
From the mocking of Babylon (Isa. 47), the reproving of Israel, and the mild reproaching of the servant (Isa. 48), we come at last to positive good news (Isa. 49:1–7): Israel will be rescued from exile, go home and enjoy abundant prosperity. It’s a reason to burst into songs of joy.
Isaiah is a master artist and her images tumble over each other as the world is invited to witness God reversing her fortunes. Dark captivity will be replaced by light (9a), barrenness by pasture (9b), drought by springs of water (10), desolation by repopulation (19,20); burden inflictors will become burden bearers (22) and haughty sovereigns will become humble servants (23). What great salvation! Israel’s reversal of fortunes and restoration anticipates Jesus’ forthcoming proclamation and greater work of redemption.
One image towers over all others, that of the mother who cannot forget her children (15). The maternal instinct creates an unbreakable bond that remains in spite of everything. The exiles may have engraved pictures of Jerusalem, a sort of primitive photograph, to remind them of their homeland, but, like any mother, God has engraved his people not on a slate but “on the palms of my hands” (16). The picture is noteworthy not only for its raw emotion but also because it explains God’s action. That which had happened when Israel lost everything and went into exile, and that which was going to happen to her as she returned home to prosperity, are two expressions of the same bond, the one unbreakable covenant that undergirds everything. After discipline comes redemption and after alienation comes a restored relationship, just as between a mother and her child. Underneath it all, the true heart of God wins through; mercy and grace would flow again (Jas. 2:13).
Think through stories of reversal in the gospels, where the first becomes last and the last first. How far does that shape our understanding of
Lord, thank You for loving me the way a mother loves her child.