When I was a little girl, my Grandma Verhulst gave me a small card which quoted Isaiah 49:15b-16a: “I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palm of My hand.” She brought them with her while visiting people at the hospital. Along with the words, the card pictured a young child resting in a large open hand. Both were carved from the same piece of wood.
That image has stayed with me for many years. I use my hands as a place to write things when I don’t have paper. I like to say a hand is ‘the original Palm Pilot’. Actually, I usually write on the back of my hand since it tends not to wash off quite so quickly!
Something jotted in pen stands no real chance of lasting. God does not just write us on His hand in quickly fading ink. Instead, the image Isaiah uses is of something cut into flesh. An engraving is not simply something on the surface, easily washed off or smudged. Instead, it becomes a part of the object into which it is carved.
Since hands are used all day long, we are engraved in a prominent place, impossible to ignore. More, it is a place where the carving would be painful. Hands are fearfully and wonderfully made, and full of touch-receptors. A pinprick is uncomfortable. Cutting into the palm would be excruciating. And then, as it healed, an engraving there would be constantly bumped and irritated, possibly reopening and bleeding again.
My grandmother’s small card did not show all the verses surrounding this beautiful image. The words of Isaiah are often harsh, speaking out against the sins of Israel and other nations. They speak of a time of exile, death and despair. God is justified in His holy and perfect anger against those who have replaced worship of Him with adoration of worthless idols. Who have treated the poor and those in need with contempt.
And yet, in His great mercy, God promises He will restore them. Through Isaiah, God proclaims that a time will come when all people on earth will know the Lord saves His people. But, because God is just and cannot tolerate sin, this redemption must come at great cost. Who will pay for us, who have nothing with which to pay?
The answer is right here. The One, the only One who is able, is the One who has engraved us on His hand. What joy, for He is not only able, but for the sake of His glory, He is also willing!
The powerful, almighty God chose to cause Himself pain on our behalf. He chose to carve us into His very flesh. That flesh was made known to us in the person of Jesus. In later chapters Isaiah will prophecy of the One who will come and by His wounds will heal us (Isaiah 53). Though He did nothing to deserve death, Jesus our Messiah bore our sins on His body so we might be redeemed.
If you are in a place of despair and pain, take heart. God has not forgotten you. Precious child, you are engraved on His hand. It is God Himself who has done this. Through Jesus we have been redeemed and restored. When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He showed them the places where the nails had been driven into His hands, where the sword had pierced His side. Those scars leave us whole and without blemish.
It is humbling to realize that although resurrected, Jesus still bore the marks of His crucifixion. Why? I wonder if part of it goes back to the words in Isaiah. Like His Father, Jesus’ hands bear a permanent reminder of us. We are not forgotten. We are indelibly engraved. Oh, what love!