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Jesus Through Isaiah’s Eyes | Engraved

February 25, 2024
Isaiah 49:13-16

13Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. 14But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” 15“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. 16Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

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To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst

To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships

To participate in God’s mission to the world 

Opening Prayer

Almighty God, we confess that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Responsive Prayer—Psalm 36

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wing.

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

For great is your love toward me;

You have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

Summary and Connection

During the season of Lent we are engaging in a brief series which will explore the person of Jesus through Isaiah’s Eyes. Isaiah is one of the most quoted Old Testament books in the New Testament. In fact, Jesus often quoted Isaiah in his preaching. Not surprisingly, the Book of Isaiah is commonly referred to as the fifth gospel. The Book of Isaiah, particularly the servant song chapters, captures the grand narrative of God’s plan of redemption accomplished through Jesus, the servant of the Lord. Isaiah reveals to his readers not only the majestic nature of God as the creator, but also the merciful nature of God as the loving Father. Perhaps no one has summarized the essence of the book of Isaiah better than Sally Lloyd Jones, the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible. She calls the book of Isaiah as God’s Secret Rescue Plan: Operation “No More Tears!” When we read the servant songs, we cannot help but agree, because we see Jesus, the rescuer, through Isaiah’s eyes!

For this week’s discussion, we turn to Isaiah 49, the second servant song, which reveals the very heart of God towards his people, perhaps unlike any other passage. Isaiah 49 begins with the servant of the Lord summoning the attention of the world, identifying himself as the Lord’s sharp sword, and polished arrow. Isaiah, similar to the first servant song, meticulously articulates the servant’s job description in this chapter. Isaiah makes it explicit that this servant is sent not to the nation of Israel alone, but to all the nations of the world. This servant is the Messiah of the world — the one who is sent to restore sinners to God, to raise up the downtrodden, and to bring back the spiritually alienated people to experience the steadfast love of the Father (49:5-7). Notice the global nature of the love of God, and the sufficiency of the salvific work of Christ. Furthermore, we also see the relentless nature of God’s faithfulness in providing, protecting, and guiding the spiritually blind and unfaithful people in the wilderness (49:10-12).

The global gathering of the people by God, accomplished through the servant, naturally, and fittingly results in the joyful singing, and transcendent celebration by the entire creation (49:13). While God’s creation rejoices in the global gathering of the people, we see God’s chosen people grumbling and complaining (49:14). The people of Israel feel forsaken and forgotten by God. In sheer contrast, we see the heart of God — steadfast love, and faithfulness — in his response to his ungrateful, and unfaithful people. God’s love towards his people is infinitely greater than a nursing mother’s unconditional love towards her baby. In other words, “the love of God transcends in permanence the best the earth can offer.” However, God doesn’t stop there. God knows that his people are hard hearted — prone to wander, and blind in their unbelief. In verse 16, we see God summoning the people of Israel to be still and watch him display his love for them. Engraving someone’s name on a palm isn’t just a lovely metaphor of love and devotion, like tattooing a loved one’s name. In fact, the Hebrew word for engrave means to engrave or carve out one’s name using a hammer and chisel. God is asking his unfaithful people to imagine someone out of  their deep love, letting people take a hammer and drive a spike right into the palm of their hands. God, in other words, is telling their anxious hearts to anticipate the day when his servant will display God’s love for them on the cross. We see this metaphor personified in Jesus’ nail-pierced hands on the cross. What our Old Testament brothers and sisters longed to see, we, as Christians have tasted and seen — the love of God displayed in and through the person of Jesus Christ. And this ought to compel us in joining the creation in singing, “worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive honor, glory, and praise!”

Discussion Questions

1. Looking at the Bible

Observation: Read the passage privately. What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? Do you notice keywords, parallels, or surprises?

  • Read verse 13. Why does Isaiah call for the creation to sing for joy? According to Isaiah, how does God comfort his people?
  • Read verses 14-16. How does God respond to the complaint of the people of Israel? What does God’s response reveal about his heart towards us?

2. Looking at Jesus

At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.

  • How does Jesus give us a reason to sing for joy? How does Jesus respond to our cries of deep anguish: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me”?

3. Looking at Our Hearts

  • Take a moment to reflect. What is the posture of your heart in your current situation:
    • Are you joyful as you have been experiencing God’s compassion and comfort recently? If yes, consider sharing your experience..
    • Are you anxious as you feel like God has forsaken or forgotten you? If yes, consider sharing your experience.
    • Are you unsure of how you feel? If yes, consider sharing your experience.
  • How might the gospel help you receive God’s love, compassion, and comfort in your anxious moments?

4. Looking at Our World

  • How might the all-encompassing global nature of God’s love for people help us to be hopeful as we share the gospel — both in words, and deeds? 


God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

  • View Study Guide Notes

    Question 1

    Question 1a. We need to read verses 9-13 in order to understand why the creation breaks out in songs of joy. God gives his servant as the covenant to the people of the world, and not just to the people of Israel. In fact, the servant of the Lord is referred to as Israel in this passage, as he fulfills what the people of Israel failed to fulfill — to be the light for the nations. Jesus, as the true Israel is the light of the world as God’s covenant with the servant extends to all the nations. In these verses we see God keeping his covenant promises by providing (49:9), protecting (49:10), and guiding (49:11) his people in all corners of the earth. This is the context for singing, and celebration!

    Singing is the picture of unbridled joy of redeemed sinners receiving the benefits of the extravagant grace of God in Jesus, freely! Alec Motyer describes this poignantly: “In the servant, salvation, covenant blessings and light have extended to the whole world. World wide people have taken to the pilgrim route home.” This is the song of homecoming for God’s people who are afflicted — humbled, humiliated, downtrodden by the weight of sin, oppression, sickness, and death. This song is also the answer to our deepest longing — to be fully known and truly loved by someone. This is the answer to what C.S Lewis describes as ‘homesickness’ in his essay, The Weight of Glory: “For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.” God comforts his people who are afflicted by sending his son to be afflicted on their behalf. Remember, by his stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

    Question 1b. Refer to the summary and connection. God’s response to the complaining Israelites reveal to us the unconditional nature of his love and faithfulness to us. Take the imagery of a nursing mother for instance: Is God displaying his sovereignty over his image bearers by comparing them to a child? Although it is a true statement, that is not what God is saying here. The image of a nursing mother is the greatest example of unconditional love a human being can offer to another. The child is utterly dependent on the mother for its very survival. The child is needy, utterly incapable of giving anything in return. Yet we see the mother patiently and selflessly provide for her child. However, even a selfless nursing mother may forget and forsake her infant. However, God will not forget or forsake his children, who are utterly dependent, needy, and incapable of giving anything in return. God’s love towards his people is infinitely greater than a nursing mother’s unconditional love towards her baby. In other words, “the love of God transcends in permanence the best the earth can offer.”

    Question 2: Notice how God responds to the complaints of the people. He doesn’t chastise them for their unbelief. He doesn’t prove his presence through supernatural displays. Rather we see him invoke an imagery of a nursing mother and her infant. It is impossible to offer love from a position of power. A powerful God is not necessarily a loving God. C.S Lewis says in his book The Four Loves, “To love is to be vulnerable.” The real question is, how does God prove his love as the merciful Father? As a loving and merciful father he sends his own son — the servant of the Lord, to be born as a vulnerable baby. The birth of Jesus is an undeniable evidence of God’s infinite love displayed in vulnerability. The life of Jesus is evidence of the depth of God’s love and compassion displayed in Jesus’ humility, and his love and compassion towards sinners and sufferers. The death of Jesus is evidence of the extent of God’s love displayed on the cross where Jesus, the lamb of God, carried our sin and shame. Where Jesus was stripped naked for us to be covered with the garment of his perfect righteousness. On the cross, we see the love of God displayed in the nail-pierced hands of Jesus. In Jesus, God has shown us his love for us. When we look at the nail-pierced hands of Jesus, we know that God has engraved our names in the palms of his hands. 

    In our anguish we feel like God has forsaken us and forgotten us, even though it is not true. How can we be certain that God will not forsake, forget, or condemn us? Paul gives us an answer in Romans 8:1-3 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” You are not condemned by God, because you belong to Christ who was condemned on your behalf. You will never be forsaken by God, because you belong to Christ who was forsaken by God on the cross (Matthew 27:46). Jesus gives us a reason to sing for joy, by giving himself for us — the joy that was set before him (Hebrews 12:2). Cheer up Christian, God delights in you!

    Question 3: These are personal application questions. Consider sharing your own experience in order to help your group members to be comfortable sharing. Remember God does not chastise, or condemn us for feeling anxious about our faith, or uncertain about God’s love for us. If we are honest, we will admit that irrespective of our spiritual maturity, we are prone to feel anxious. When we sin, we fear God might punish us. When we struggle with habitual sin, we fear God might forsake us, and forget us. Encourage your group members by sharing Paul’s words from Romans 8:1-3, 31-39. Oftentimes we tend to believe that God is more pleased with us when we sin less and less. However, the gospel shows us that God is already pleased with us as we belong to Jesus, and God delights in us as we reflect Jesus, and not because we earn brownie points by sinning less. God is sovereign over our sin. He is aware of our sinful tendencies. He knows that we will continue to sin as long as we are on this earth. Remember Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 1:15-16. Paul, at the end of a fruitful ministry, admits he’s the worst of sinners. God does not demand sinless perfection, but he calls us to be faithful. God hates sin, and yet he uses what he hates to accomplish what he loves — to make us Christlike. Our sanctification is measured in our Christlikeness, not in our ability to conquer sin. To grow in faith is to be like Christ. To be fruitful is to be Christlike. We can only be Christlike when we are made aware of the chasm between our sinfulness and God’s holiness. When we rely on the grace of God in Jesus to fill the chasm, our hearts are transformed, and our obedience begins to be a delight, and not a duty.

    Question 4: This is a personal application question.