These are warm and familiar verses from the prophet Isaiah. Like an old pair of slippers, I’ve worn them and cherished them for many years. Verse 16– ‘Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’. What does that mean? Here’s some background. When a child left home in ancient Israel, moving to some far off place, there’s the strong possibility that the parent would never see that child again. The mother, therefore, would tattoo onto the palm of her hand the name of that child. Every time she would gaze at her palm, there would be the reminder of that beloved child. No longer seen, but never forgotten. The name, permanently before her eyes.
Thinking back to the 19th century and earlier, this verse would have rung true in people’s experience. I was looking through some old family photos. Have one of my paternal great-grandparents, Johann Adam and Christiana Fischer. They appear quite elderly. An outdoor photo, probably near the blacksmith shop he worked at or the home they lived in. She’s quite tall compared to him. They appear unpretentious and hard-working. I have many old family photos. But this is the only one to remember them by. Their son, my grandfather Adam Fischer, left Germany when he was 14 to avoid the Kaiser’s 20-year military draft. So the story goes. He never returned home. Never called them on the phone. Only one old photo of them in his possession. They never saw their son ever again. Or he, them.
I feel very sad writing this. I imagine how I would feel if I never saw even one of our children ever again. Devastated. Heartbroken. Bereft. But this was not uncommon for immigrants not that many years ago. Isaiah, in today’s passage, wants to reassure us that no matter where we are, no matter how difficult life becomes, no matter how dark and lonely our days, the Lord is always with us. Always concerned for us. Like having a tattoo with our names on the palms of His hands. Always before Him. Close to His heart. That’s where we are…at this very moment. Even if it feels quite the contrary. Isaiah 50: 10–‘Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.’
He has our names engraved on His hands. We can rely on Him when life turns awfully unhandy.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that we can always lean on you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.