“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him. For the Lord comforts Zion;. . .” (Isaiah 51:1-3a)
Isaiah appealed to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. He knew that separated from their homeland, people and their Temple, pressured by their Babylonian overlords and attracted by the Babylonian gods they would tend to stray. The Lord reminds them to remember their heritage. They must recall the faithfulness of Abraham who was called to live in a land not his own, far away from family and friends. They must recall the trials of those who left Egypt as well as the faithfulness of those who entered the Promised Land. The Lord took care of all of these. He did not desert them although at times they deserted Him and walked in their own way. They are encouraged not to despair, but to have hope for the Lord will always triumph over evil.
Despair is always a problem for the believer. We are, in a sense, in exile. We live apart from heaven in a world that is opposed to the Lord God. We are surrounded by pressures and temptations on every hand as well as trials and problems and suffering of all kinds. Many of us are afraid of other people, the government, terrorism, the future, pain and uncertainty. In the midst of our despair the Lord reminds us that we have been redeemed. We should not then live as if we still in the world. We should look to Jesus; we should look to the saints who have gone before us to see how they endured. We are members of His kingdom even though we cannot yet see it. We have been redeemed from His wrath. In that case we can be certain to avoid that wrath. We will be spared as it is poured out upon the wicked and the unrepentant. Death then can no longer hold any power over for we know that when we go through it we will be with the Lord in the company of all His holy ones.