The Restful Place: a meditation on Isaiah 49

The Restful Place

True peace is knowing God

Isaiah speaks with confidence. He is bold in declaring that God called him and named him. Even before Isaiah was born, God had a plan for him.

I don’t believe it is any different for any of us. God calls us from the womb and has a plan for us. Is the path not there if we do not choose it? No. We have a choice, but God wills for all to be saved and restored to Him.

Isaiah 49:1 Listen to this, everyone – near and far: The Eternal One singled me out, even before I was born. He called me and named me when I was still in my mother’s belly.

2 Even then, God was preparing my mouth to speak like a sharp sword. He kept my purpose quiet, kept me safe in the shadow of His hand, He crafted me into a sharp-tipped arrow and tucked me away in His quiver;

3 God said to me, “You are My servant, Israel. Through you, I will be glorified.”

Tim’s story

Earlier this week, when my mom talked to one of my brothers, it came out that my littlest brother was crying before bed. When asked why, he sobbed, “I didn’t accomplish anything today.”

God’s love for us does not include a checklist of tasks for each day. He wants us to listen to Him and follow His commands. What accomplishments we finish may or may not be revealed. We take it on faith that we are accomplishing his will.

4 I said, “I’ve worked hard for nothing. I spent my strength, and what have I accomplished—nothing, Yet my justice and reward are secure with my God, the Eternal One.”

5 And now the Eternal who watched, shaped, and made me His own servant from the womb has determined to restore Jacob’s family; Israel will be made right with the Eternal again. For God has counted me worthy and He has been my strength right along.

He is my strength

The Lord is my strength. Without Him, I don’t have the will to keep moving. He restores me and makes me right with Him. 

6 Eternal One: As My servant you will do even more than this, even more than restoring Jacob’s family to Me And making Israel right with Me again. I will make you a light for the nations, And You will illumine them until My salvation reaches to the ends of the earth.

7a This is what the Eternal One, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, told to the one who is despised and loathed by the nation, To the servant of national leaders.

What God says

God chose us. He answers our prayers. He delivers and helps us. How could we doubt Him? It is relatively easy. If we take our eyes off Him and His providence, we can hear the doom, gloom, and despair of the world. Pleasures will taunt us as if to say, “You’ll feel better with me.” Turn away from the world and listen to our God in heaven.

7b Eternal One: At the sight of you, kings will rise and princes will bow down, for I, the Eternal, faithful and true, the Holy One of Israel, have chosen you. The Eternal has this to say:

8 Eternal One: When the time was right, I answered you; on the day you were delivered, I was your help.

God watches over me

God watches over us. He gives us a binding covenant. The land will recover and will return to His people. God frees the prisoners. He leads to light those who have dwelt in darkness. God provides food and water for us wherever we are. We walk with peace of mind. He provides comfort and security.

8b I will watch over you, and give you as a promise, a binding covenant to the people. Through you, My gift to the people, the land of promise will recover. Ancestral ground, once deserted, will be entrusted to them.

9 Through you, My gift to the people, I will declare to the prisoners, “Come out. Now you are free”; To those who are held in darkness, “Come out into the light.” They will find sustenance wherever they are – Along the roads or in the open hills – with peace of mind, in comfort and security.

God provides a restful place

Some areas of this world are lush green meadows with flowers and streams. God can provide a restful place even in a large, bustling city. It is where we seek His face and drink in His love. Here we are okay. We aren’t hungry or thirsty. The oppressive heat and burning sun cannot penetrate God’s restful place. We can breathe deeply, knowing the air of His presence is pure.

10 Wherever they are, they will be fine, never hungry nor thirsty. They will be protected from oppressive heat and the burning sun Because the One who loves them – as a mother loves her child – will be their guide. God will lead them to restful places, rejuvenating springs of water.

God brings His people home to him

Have you ever been lost? It isn’t very comforting not to know which way to go next. I remember driving in large cities, lost and unsure if I could find my way home.

In Oklahoma City, when I was lost, I usually ended up at the stockyards. It happened so many times it became a relief. I knew how to get home from there. In St. Louis, as a teenager, being lost was an adventure. It is easy to get in the left turn lane without meaning to and then end up in a different city. My brothers taught me to find 8th Street. It would take me over the Mississippi river and back home to Illinois.

As a young mother, I once woke the kids up after I got in the wrong lane. “Hey, wake up! I’m lost in China Town. Take a look; we aren’t coming back here.” I finally made it to the correct freeway.

God makes finding home easy. He levels the mountain road or gives us the strength to go over. He smoothes the path and holds us up so we won’t fall. Even from far away, deep in sin, God pulls us homeward to Him. Rejoice because Our God is moved to compassion. He comforts and consoles us.

11 I will make their going easy, level the mountain road and smooth the path that leads them home.

12 Look! Even now, they are coming from lands far away, some from the north, others from the west, these from the land of Sinim.

13 Oh joy! Be glad—sky! Take joy—earth! Burst into song—mountains! For the Eternal, moved to compassion, has comforted and consoled His people.

Our complaint

Some days just feel bad. We think God has abandoned us. We feel as though he left the room, left us alone. We believe He has forgotten about us and the trials we are in. On those days, we complain and grumble. But we are reminded of God’s love.

14 Zion: The Eternal One has abandoned me. God has walked out the door; my Lord left me alone. He has forgotten all about me.

God’s answer

God does not forget us. Even if a mother could forget her tiny baby, God will never fail us. We are a part of God. Our names are written on the palms of His hands. He is always concerned with our protection and safety. We are safe with God Almighty.

15 Eternal One: Is it possible for a mother, however disappointed, however hurt, to forget her nursing child? Can she feel nothing for the baby she carried and birthed? Even if she could, I, God, will never forget you.

16 Look here. I have made you a part of Me, written you on the palms of My hands. Your city walls are always on My mind, always My concern.

17 Now sweet Zion your children are running pell-mell back to you Just as fast as those who destroyed you are leaving.

See God’s work

Let us lift up our eyes and praise the Eternal God. He has fulfilled our desires. He protects us from our enemies and restores our land. We live as though in a new era, a time of prosperity. And why? Because God brought it to us. We seek God and look only at His face. We are drenched in the Spirit of His Presence.

18 Raise your head, lift up your eyes, and watch your heart’s desire come – All your children, gathered and returning to you. As I live, so I promise. You will wear them with pride all like shining ornaments; you will put them on as a bride on her wedding day.

19 Because of all of your destroyed land – the barren fields and abandoned farms – you are now too small, too cramped for all your citizens; And those who tried to swallow you whole will be far, far away. 

20 The children you mourned, those born in exile, will return and say, “It is too cramped and crowded for us; We’re going to need more room if we are to live here.”

21 You’ll say to yourself, “Where in the world did all these people come from? Could these really be mine? I thought I’d been desolated, left empty. Where have you all been? Where did you come from?”

God takes care of us

The Lord God lifts His hand to the nations to bring His people home. Our children are tended to and nurtured. Those considered great will be humbled before us. And we will remember that God is the Eternal One. We trust in God, and God will never put us to shame.

22 This is what the Lord, the Eternal, has to say: Eternal One: I will lift My hand and signal every nation that holds your people And they will bring your children back again: boys bundled in their arms, girls riding on their shoulders.

23 Kings will tend the children of Zion, and their queens will nurse and nurture them. These greats will humble themselves before you. They will bow and lick the dust off your feet, and in the course of it all, you will remember that I am the Eternal. Whoever trusts in Me will never be put to shame.

Our difficult faith

And even then, we falter in our trust in God. We see the desolation of war, riots, and violence. We see so many held captive and are refugees from disasters, violence, and war. So we complain once again. And God gathers us in His loving arms to comfort us.

24 Jerusalem: Can the spoil of war be taken from the mighty? Can the captives be freed from the hand of a tyrant?

God’s loving answer

Lord God, it is hard to believe in You and Your promises. But it is the reality that will come to pass. You will free the captives and deliver them safely home. You will bring back all that was stolen. You will contend with our enemies. Lord, You will save our children daily.

Forgive us for our unbelief, for how we doubt You. You are our strength, hope, and peace. You fight for us every day and night. You, Lord God Eternal, will keep Your promises.

25 Eternal One: Hard to believe, but it shall be so. The captives will be taken from the hand of the mighty, And the spoil of war will be rescued from the tyrant. I will liberate them from their captors and contend with your enemies. I will save your children.

26 I will turn your enemies’ violence back on themselves, and they will suffer their own atrocities: They will feed on their own flesh and drink their own blood like wine. Then every person on earth will know for certain that I, the Eternal, am your Savior. I am your hero, the strong One of Jacob from whom you come. I will rescue you, whatever the price.

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