“But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”Isaiah 49:14–16
God is assuring Zion of the impossibility of His forgetting her.
God is so understanding of our poor comprehension of the Divine. How many times when we forget the most basic attributes of God and His relation to us, would He have reason to be frustrated or impatient? Instead, He takes the time to explain it again, to assure us multiple times when we should trust Him on a single promise. He understands how often mortals encounter mistakes and how that affects our perception of His unfailing faithfulness.
He understands how we rely on escape routes, backups, plan Bs, safety measures, and does not condemn us for it. We are creatures who invent deadbolts, spare tires, and two-factor authentication, because we have to, and so here, in Isaiah 49:14-16, He comes to us on those terms.
First: can a woman forget her sucking child? The nature of sentient beings immediately shouts a definite Impossible! But I can hear a feeble, fearful mind reasoning, “Well, I knew a mother who did forget once …” God hears too, and without reproach, counters: “Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” What more can a creature wish for than the promise of His Creator? “Though the human parent might maybe, perhaps somehow chance to forget, yet, my sovereign, eternal, omniscient, all-loving memory will not forget you!” Listen to the Creator giving the creation His Word of honour – the unchanging Word, forever settled in the heavens.
Hebrews says that by two immutable things we might have a strong consolation. How many immutable things does it take to console us? How many things that are by their nature unchangeable must God use to assure those whose days are as grass? But oh, the loving patience of the divine Father! In case a mother would forget her sucking child, and in case we would not grasp the impossibility of God to lie, He has graven Zion on the palms of His hands and set her walls continually before Him. Thus not only in the fathomless mind of God, but now etched in His almighty hand. Now set before His eyes continually, as the portrait of one’s true love that he will keep with him, not because there is any danger of His forgetting, but for the very reason that He cannot forget! Just so, Zion’s walls are continually before He who loves her.
And once again, words fail. A signed business contract is recorded only on flammable paper; a crooked man may default on his handshake; even the most solemn vows of human love are only till death parts, but God’s simple Word, “I will not forget” – written in the annals of heaven, sealed by the outstretched hands of the Saviour, belonging to that eternity whose length we cannot begin to measure – what more can He say than to you He hath said?
“O ye of little faith belongs” to all of us. We have each been like Thomas, longing to see the proof of God’s love for us graven in the nail-pierced hands.