Isaiah 49:16

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.

Isaiah 49:16 | NIV | Other Versions | Context

Brief

God loves you. God treasures you. God cherishes you. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile ourselves to the idea that God loves us. Isaiah 49 gives us a wonderful analogy to describe the compassion that God has for us. Because he loves us, he will protect us. Because he loves us, he will watch over us. In this study we will examine the analogies used in this verse and discover the depth of love our Lord has for us.

Analysis

engraved you – the original word here means something like tattooing – a permanent, unremovable mark that will not disappear. These days technology may have made tattooing no longer unremovable, but in those days that was probably unthinkable. We may be just one out of many, we may rightly conclude that we are rather insignificant, but in God’s eyes, we are important, very important.

palms of my hands – The skin on our palms are one of the thickest on our human bodies, and while I’m no expert at the art of tattooing, I understand that tattooing on a human palm is actually a rather difficult art as the skin there sheds regularly and is so thick that the tattoo will just fade or distort after some time. A palm tattoo is probably much rarer than a tattoo on the back of the hands, for example. And while I’m not here to advocate tattooing – I am no expert on it and I don’t sport a single tattoo – I really just want to emphasize that real tattooing on the palms for humans may not be permanent, but God’s engraving of us on his palms are. It won’t fade or distort, the ink won’t mesh together and become unreadable after a month.

Do you sometimes scribble something on your palms? A bit old-fashioned, perhaps, especially in today’s context where we carry mobile devices and tablets everywhere we go. But maybe you once used to do that – scribble somebody’s number on your palm because you don’t have your mobile or a piece of paper with you; or perhaps jot your shopping list down on your palm so that you simply won’t miss out anything. Or just a short, but important message that you wouldn’t want to forget. Scribbling on the palms of our hands always work as a reminder, because we’ll naturally look at the palms of our hands as we go about with our daily activities. You will see your palm before you grab a mug for a coffee. You will see your palm when you try to run your hand through your hair. You will see your palm when you are opening a drawer. Writing something down on your palm is almost always a sure-proof reminder. Can you imagine, then, that our names are engraved on the palm of God?

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine tattooing the name of somebody you love on your palm, assuming it will never fade nor distort? It would be quite a torture if you are angry with that person, because his or her name will constantly pop up in your mind and you will be reminded of him or her whether you like it or not. It will be a torment if you fall out of love with that person, or grow distant from that person. It will be devastating if that person betrays your or breaks your heart. Yet that was what God took on upon himself. Our names are engraved on his palm.

It is sometimes unthinkable of how that could be possible – how many of us are there, really? How can God possibly treat all of us as equally important? We go back into the concept of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God – he is all present and all knowing. He is all powerful and he is capable of things we cannot imagine. You are important in God’s eyes. You are valued in God’s eyes. He will not forget you, because your name has been permanently etched on his palms.

your walls are ever before me – some would say that the walls here refer to the ruined walls of Jerusalem, and that it means that the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and hence the rebuilding of his people is always on his mind. While there may be an allusion to the walls of Jerusalem here, it was more likely a reference to the walls of their dwelling and their houses, to refer to that their safety and their lodgings and their well-being are always on his mind. It could also refer to the walls of the church, even though the church as an entity wasn’t established until some hundreds of years later from the time of Isaiah. All in all, whatever these walls refer to, they suggest that the well-being of the people are always on the mind of the Lord.

Conclusion

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb [Psalm 139:13|Article]. We are, or should, be close to God. He not only created us in our mothers’ wombs, he also engraved us on his palm. There is such an intricate relationship and bond that exists between us and God if we would only acknowledge it. Come what may, our God, who has engraved us on the palms of his hands, is still there. No matter what happens, do not forget that God cherishes you.

God bless,
Z.

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