I know that Isaiah can be a very difficult book to understand and chapter 49 is no exception, but hopefully you perservered and finished the chapter. It is laced with awesome reassurances and promises from God. I'm going to start down at Isaiah 49:5 where God tells us that we are "honored in the eyes of the Lord and ... God has been [our] strength". God honors us. The definition of honor is as follows: "high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank". Let me say it again, God honors us. God has a high respect for us. He sees us as high in worth, we are valuable in his eyes. I don't know about you, but there are many times when I most definitely don't feel valuable. I break out for no reason, I feel bloated, or maybe I just feel guilty. But God STILL sees us worthy and honorable. Think of some people that you see as honorable: people who fight for our country, maybe a family member who dies to theirself everyday, that's how God sees us.
God, then, goes on to say that the job of being his servant and restoring his people is too small of a job. He needs us to be a light to the Gentiles. He needs us to bring his love to the sinners of the world. Now, I'm not saying that being a pastor or working with christians isn't fulfilling God's plan for us. I'm saying that even if you do work with christians on a daily basis, God still wants us to reach out to the non-christians. Our job doesn't end in the church, it starts there. If you jump to verse 7 you see this: "This is what the Lord says - the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel - to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: 'Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you." In Jessica terms: Our redeemer is speaking to, not the goody-two-shoes or the people who look good, God is speaking to the criminals, the poor and needy, the people who look as if their life will never turn out right. God says that kings will take notice of us, and that princes will respect us. But, not because of anything we do, this will happen because of the Lord, the Redeemer, the one who has chosen us.
The rest of the chapter is dedicated to how God is going to restore us or how God is going to take the criminal, servant, and despised and turn them into someone that is worthy and someone who will be noticed. Not noticed in the sense of the popular kids at school, noticed as in looked up to. It may not be in this life, or it may, but it may not be by the people we think it will be by. Down in verse 9 God says that he will "say to the captives, 'Come out', and to those in darkness, 'Be free!" God is going to call us out of the dark places in our lives, and the only way God knows that we're in those dark places is because he's there with us. Our job at that point is to respond, no matter how many times God calls, it's up to us to get up and walk towards he who is the light.
A couple of verses later God reassures us that he will never forget us. There are many people in our lives that will forget us, but not he. "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" I <3 that verse soooo much! At the time that this book was written, Jesus had not been to the earth, it was written atleast 500 years before Christ was born. Back then, it had to be pretty cool reading that we are engraved on the palms of Jesus' hands. But now, it's AWESOME! Jesus was pierced onto the cross through his hands, we are reminded of Jesus' death through these scars. Christ doesn't see the scar, though, all he sees is us. He doesn't see the pain that we wince at when thinking of the crucifixion, he sees his love for us. Verses 22 and 23 talk of how the Gentiles, the people we're called to save, will turn around and save those around them. Those people will be saved and they will save.
I, personally, feel that this chapter shows God perfectly as our Redeemer. He is the one that will save us and enable us to save others. Without him, we would still be despised and looked down upon, but through his saving grace we can rise up in honor and worthiness to be fully His.
Lord, thank you for being our redeemer and for calling us out of the dark parts of our lives. We see that without you, we would have no purpose or hope. You are our only hope and you are our saving grace. It's still hard for us to grasp the honor that you see in us, Lord we mess up so many times. Please forgive us and teach us to forgive ourselves. Help us to strive towards your perfection and redemption in every aspect of our lives.