When our children were small, my wife nursed both of them for many months, since she had ample milk. But when she was performing this beautiful act day after day, the last thing she could have done was forget her nursing child! Her breasts needed regular sucking or she felt considerable discomfort. During those now long-ago days, she surely could not have forgotten the act of nursing nor could she have failed to have compassion (a Hebrew word based on one of the words for "womb") on those children. It may be conceivable that a woman might forget or her compassion may fail, as hard as it is to imagine such things, but the prophet says that YHWH "will not forget" (49:15). This is so, because God has "inscribed (Israel) in the palms of God's hands." And in a second metaphor, Zion's "walls are continually before God" (49:16).
Thus, both people and city are offered the everlasting and steadfast hope of the God of Israel. Even in exile God does not forget! Even when we forget our land and our city, God does not forget! Even when the city and its inhabitants lose hope, God always provides hope! Our own journey of Lent draws near. It can at times be a fearsome journey, leading us to look deeply into our own exiles, from self, from others, from God. But Isaiah reminds us that we never take this or any journey alone. God always journeys with us. God is always with us. The promise of Christmas, the gift of Emmanuel, God's presence with us, sustains us on the journey through life that we all must make. Thanks be to such a God!