I have you engraved on the palms of my hands… (Isaiah 49:16)
Let’s be honest. These are trying times. The COVID-19 pandemic may be the first long-term communal crisis any of our grandchildren have ever experienced in their lives. Even those of us who are Boomer and GenX grandparents have experienced little beyond 911 and the Vietnam War. Most of us living today have never known what it is to do without. There is an expectation of getting what we want when we want it because we are entitled to it. It’s the Amazon way. The digital world has contributed to a sense of invincibility and control beyond anything any previous generation has known. We are accustomed to being pampered.
Now things have changed, and no one knows ultimately how it will end. In light of all the fear and uncertainty in the world today, walk with me to a place where we can get a reality check to keep things in perspective during this time of uncertainty. I pray you will be encouraged and emboldened to discuss these times with your grandchildren, their parents and your neighbors from the right perspective. Your faith in Christ and His resurrection power combined with the truths of God’s Word ought to keep our perspective aligned with what’s true, whether in times of trouble or times of blessing.
Perspective from Isaiah
Journey with me back to Isaiah’s day for a powerful lesson from God on this matter of perspective. It’s found in Isaiah 49:13b-16. Yes, I’m quite aware that this is a word given specifically to Israel concerning God’s promised restoration. But I believe this is about more than just Israel. It is about God—who He is and the care He provides to His people. That is why it as applicable to us—those who have their hope in God—as it was then. God provides a gentle correction about our perspectives of His love and care for us.
He has not forsaken us even though it may feel that way. To the contrary, God is our comfort and He has compassion on the afflicted (vs. 13b). While I am not personally struggling with feelings of abandonment by God right now, I know many people feel that way. When things get hard or tragic (and there will be plenty of those times), it is not uncommon for us to blame God for turning His back on us. But God wants us to know it is not true. It is probably more accurate to say we turn our backs on Him. This passage reminds us of what is actually true about our God. So, let’s take a closer look and see if it might help keep our perspective on track.
In the face of claims of abandonment by His people, God replies: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget (and we have enough examples of that in our day), yet I will not forget you” (vs. 15). We know it is not normal for a mother to abandon the child to whom she gives birth and nurses, even though it happens. But God is never guilty of anything of the kind!
Even so, no matter how many times God promises He will never forsake us, we often doubt Him. He may bless us a hundred times over, but when a dark moment arises, we question His faithfulness or goodness. Oh, I pray our grandchildren will never hear us doubting God’s faithfulness and goodness, and if they do, let us be quick to repent and confess our sin, for God is and always will be faithful… and He is good.
The second part of this word from God ought to help us understand the depth of God’s love and commitment to our good. “Behold, I have engraved you in the palms of my hands, your walls are continually before me” (vs. 16). Did you catch what God said? He did not say he has engraved your name in the palms of His hands. He said He has engraved YOU in the palms of His hands. Think about that for a moment. You, as a person, not just your name, have been imprinted, or shall I say tattooed into His hands. Everything about you and all that shapes and affects you are permanently tattooed in the palms of His hands.
In other words, it’s like God is saying, “I have put you there where I will always see you and hold you. Know that I have not forsaken you, no matter how it feels. You are never out of my mind; never in a place where my eye is not upon you and I whisper in your ear this promise: ‘Fear not, I am with you!’” Let the reality of that sink in and give you comfort.
Which takes us to the second aspect of being tattooed into the palms of God’s hands—the assurance of our security for this life and for eternity. It reminds me of what Jesus said in John 10:28… “No one can snatch them out of my hand”. It is good to be reminded that regardless of our situation, God has you and your situation well in hand.
I like the way Vance Havner describes it: “The palm of the hand is a well-protected place and that hand can fold into a fist if threatened! Not only ourselves but our times, our circumstances, the day in which we live, the happenings of our lives—all these are under His control. Sometimes they are beyond our control, but ‘He’s got the whole world in His hands.’ He not only leads us by His hand, He keeps us in His hand.”
A Deal Breaker
So, Grandpa and Grandma, what do you really believe? Have you told your grandchildren the truth about God’s covenant with His people—that we are engraved in the palms of His hands? This is a truth to which we must cling and encourage them to cling no matter how we feel about the circumstances of our lives. Feelings are real, but they are not always true. When you feel abandoned, cling to the truth. Do not let your feelings betray you. Remember that His fist is tightly closed around you no matter what may threaten you. What could be a better perspective for true peace… a deal breaker for troubled times?