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.
But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me."
"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.
These words from Isaiah 49 were spoken to a nation that was in crisis. Israel was surrounded by enemies bent on her destruction. Zion (another name for Jerusalem) was alone, without friends to come to her aid. The only possible help was that which could be bought - mercenaries who would fight as long as the pay was good, but who could not be counted upon when things got tight.
Into this situation, God himself speaks. Although the language sounds as if he were concerned with the streets and buildings of the city, it is really his people who have his heart. Zion is the people of God, not just the place. And it is these people who are constantly on God's heart. These people are you and me. When it feels as if God has forgotten and forsaken us is exactly the time to break out in joyful song. It is counterintuitive, a song of faith that there is a blessing when we cannot see one.
Although it does happen, it is so rare that Isaiah cannot comprehend a mother forgetting her little baby, but says even if that were possible, God cannot forget his beloved children. We often are tempted to doubt God's love when life turns against us, when we've been betrayed, let down, disappointed. We may not say the words, but in our hearts we ask God to prove his love for us. Well, he has done just that, but not by making life suddenly turn around. He proved his love when Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Isaiah points us to that singular proof of the Father's love when he reports God's claim: "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." God's love is forever carved into the hands and feet of Jesus. If you ever question God's love for you, look at those hands. Though they may not be all the proof you want, they are all the proof you need.