Into the Palms of His Hands

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“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;
    your walls are ever before me.”

Isaiah 49:15-16, NIV

Isaiah 49:16

All of those times my children’s and youth leaders said Have a Quiet Time. The Read the Bible in a Year plans. The checklists and to-do’s, groaning at the idea of reading Leviticus.

I never got it. Sure, I read sporadically. Sometimes even faithfully. Opening my Bible, finger pointing to a passage, willing God to speak to me.

And then I started doing (and working on!) more in-depth studies. And I began to see the trail, the thread through the Bible. The lasso that ropes all the words from Leviticus and Joshua and those little-read prophets at the Old Testament’s end and throws them all on Christ’s body.

For this lover of words, the beloved of Christ, it is mind-blowingly beautiful.

In Isaiah 49, God tells Zion (Jerusalem and the Israelites), “I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.”  According to several commentaries, there was a practice among the Israelites of somehow puncturing or burning in the palms of their hands images symbolizing the temple or the city of Jerusalem. Scholars hypothesize that this practice was taken from Exodus 13:9, which reads, “Let it serve as a sign for you on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the Lord’s instruction may be in your mouth; for the Lord brought you out of Egypt with a strong hand” (HCSB).

If you’ll allow me to put some words into His holy mouth, in Isaiah God is saying, “I told you to remember Me and how I saved you from Egypt. And just like that, I remember you! You are as close to Me as My hand.”

And that would be enough, wouldn’t it? That God treasured those people, in spite of all their failures and idol worship and sin. But even as He spoke those words, He knew what would happen hundreds of years in the future. Jesus was born in a time where the holy They knew He would suffer on a cross and receive a marking on His own hands.

We know Jesus’ resurrected body has nail prints, as Thomas was able to touch them. (“Then he said to Thomas,’Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe’ ” John 20:27, ESV.) Once again, God related to His people, showing them He knew their ways and their history. Each and every detail was in His mind. And once again, He knew them like He knew His own hand. Now His and His Son’s hands were marked for them. For the past, the release from Egypt. For the present, the salvation of all. And for the future, for all the ones who would think on Jesus’ nail-scarred hands and believe.

Nothing in the Bible is a mistake.

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