The prophet Isaiah had a difficult task. Speaking truth to stubborn and rebellious people is never easy. Isaiah’s job was to warn God’s people about the fate that awaited the nation. The tone of Isaiah 49 is somewhat different from the first forty-eight chapters. Our attention is turned to the Servant, the Promised Messiah of Israel (and ultimately the Gentiles also). The first six verses variously describe and identify this Servant of the Lord. This Servant is a choice arrow chosen from before birth. The Lord has chosen to display His glory in this Servant. For a moment in time, it will appear that this Servant will have appeared and labored in vain. However, that will not be true. God will accomplish His purposes in a strange and mysterious way but accomplish them He will.
This Servant of the Lord will focus on Israel first but will eventually turn His attention to the rest of the world. He will be a light to the nations and His salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.
Verses 7-8 tell us, tragically, the Servant of the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, the Holy One of Israel will be despised, abhorred, and rejected. However, that is what will trigger the offer of redemption to the rest of the world. You know the record of Scripture. Isaiah’s prediction has come to pass. The Messiah came, was crucified as the ultimate rejection. He was resurrected, ascended, and sits at the right hand of the Father. God the Father will be faithful to His promises. He can do no other. He is Truth. His Word is Truth. His character and nature constrain Him from being otherwise. Additionally, and even more importantly, His relationship with His Son ensures that He will be faithful to His promises to us.
Verses 9-13 advance the message about the manifold blessings that will come to the people of God through this Servant of the Lord. Physical healing, ease of travel, compassion on the afflicted, abundance of food and water illustrate the spiritual blessings. Verses 14-16 answer a false objection from Israel based on irrational worry, But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, And the Lord has forgotten me." 15 "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. 16 "Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me. (NASU) God will never, never, never forget those to whom His promises were aimed. His Word is faithful and true. The love of a nursing mother for her child is about as close an earthly approximation to the love of God that there is. However, in this fallen world, as verse 15 acknowledges, some mothers might forget their nursing children or have no compassion on their children, but God will in no wise ever forget those who belong to Him.
Verse 16 uses a graphic object lesson drawn from the custom of many ancient peoples, who seemed to create a crude “tatoo” of sorts on their palms as a reminder of something important in their lives. God has no hands, but it seems that He has figuratively speaking, inscribed the walls of Jerusalem on His palms. The walls are emblematic of His people. Thus, whenever He figuratively raises His hands, He is reminded of His beloved people. Thus, He is unable to ever forget them. Even if a nursing mother is not reminded by the production of milk to nurse her baby, God will never forget those to whom His promises belong. Praise God for His longsuffering lovingkindness.