Quite the Hubbub

Isaiah 49:13-16

Shout for joy, you heavens;
    rejoice, you earth;
    burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
    and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

We begin our reading from Isaiah with shouting, rejoicing, and revelry—feelings similar to the ones evoked in this painting by Joanna Braithwaite called Hubbub. She is known for her surreal portrayals of hybrid animals, insects, and humans which has given her a reputation as an artist concerned with humanity’s relationship with the natural world. I think it just looks like she has an active imagination and it makes me smile.

The verses in Isaiah immediately following quickly change their tune:

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
    the Lord has forgotten me.”

While the first set of verses is a wonderful vision of God’s compassion, the next set of verses interrupt the revelry with a painful statement: “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” Are they saying future kindness (the Lord will have compassion) is not enough for the troubles of today? Perhaps we want to know what God is doing for us now. We feel abandoned and surrounded by needs now. We believe God will save us eventually but what has he done for us lately?

What makes it hard for us to believe God’s promises in the present? Author Richard Lovelace said, “It is an item of faith that we are children of God, but there is plenty of experience in us against that.”

We may say we believe, and we may actually believe, but there are all kinds of evidence to counter that belief. There’s evidence inside of us. We wonder how God can love us considering how we feel, how we are, or what we’ve done. There’s also evidence outside of us: unanswered prayer, disappointments, and unfulfilled dreams. Yes, we believe with our head, but sometimes the evidence that surrounds us is just too overwhelming. Sometimes the evidence around us seems to point to just one thing: we have been abandoned by God.

God’s answer to us?

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

Being Human connection: God does not ignore our accusations of abandonment, or gloss over them, or get angry, or tell us to buck up. Instead he gives us a tender and loving metaphor to help us understand how he feels toward us. Even though we may forget God, he will never forget us. We are written on the palms of his hand. He will never abandon us, even when we forget his faithfulness. What an amazing promise!

Featured art: Joanna Braithwaite, Hubbub, 2020.