Monday meditations: Isa. 49.16

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” (Isa. 49.16)

Yesterday for Mother’s Day, Barbara Orthner, one of our pastors at the Raleigh Vineyard, preached one of the most stirring sermons I have heard marking that occasion (you can listen to and/or download her sermon here). Pastor Barbara’s text was Isa. 49.15-16 where God uses the image of a nursing mother to communicate to the children of Israel what His love and devotion for them was like – yet what His love for them even goes beyond. I have had the joy of watching Amy as a nursing mother twice now. A love that goes beyond her devotion for our babies? That is something.

What really got my attention in that passage was the line above, where God claims to have engraved their/our names on the palms of His hands. I am going to show restraint here and not turn this into a lengthy word study. Suffice it to say that “engrave” is a good translation, “inscribe” is a little weak, and “write” is pathetically weak. The Hebrew word here literally mean “to cut in, to etch, to engrave.” More is meant here than just writing a note on your hand when you don’t have a slip of paper. Think tattooing or skin-cutting rituals. That’s what the word means here.

I’m also not going to weigh you down with a lengthy discussion of the appropriateness of transferring this from a word to Israel to a word for me or you. That is worth thinking about, but there is no one simple answer to that.

What I am going to encourage you to do is memorize this line: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands,” repeat to yourself each day as you pray and as you go through your day. Pay attention to all the words and nuances (like the verb tense). Ask the Lord what it means. Ask Him what He meant by ‘engraved,’ what He means for you in this, how it applies to you and your community. Then listen. Spend all week listening. The Lord will answer you. The Spirit will draw close and your heart and mind will begin producing thoughts and feelings you didn’t know were there (because they weren’t before). Receive what the Lord gives you and use it as He directs you.