Zion said, The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me. Christ says: 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. (Isaiah 49:14-16)
God’s people can feel rejected because of our own sins, because of the world’s sins against us, or because of the Father’s discipline. Hebrews 12:4-13 explains the Lord’s rebuking, correcting, and training process. Sometimes He chastens us through rough, unpleasant, and painful experiences because He loves us, not because He rejects us. God disciplines us for our good, not to harm us, but so that we submit to Him and live. The Father trains us up to share in His holiness, so that we resemble Him more and more. The Lord aims to produce a harvest of righteousness and peace in us. So we must not lose heart. He is more concerned about our Christ-like character than our comfort.
I sometimes use Twila Paris’ song as a prayer:
Covenant Maker, I made a start; Covenant breaker, I broke Your heart.
Your word is deeper, Faithful and true. Covenant Keeper, make me like You.
Covenant Maker, You made a way; Infinite taker, I made You pay.
But Your love was deeper, Faithful and true. Covenant Keeper, make me like You.
Scripture says: “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that Jesus might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”1 By chastening us, the Lord separates the sin in us He hates from the sinner (us) whom He loves.2
Let’s look again at our verses in Isaiah 49.
Isaiah Points to Jesus’ Cross
Christ the Lord says in v. 16 above: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” John the Apostle wrote that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him.3 So I understand Isaiah’s words as speaking to all Christ’s followers Jewish and Gentile, Old and New Testament believers. This is God’s promise to all who repent on believe on Jesus, right up to the present day. He’s writing to you, Christian!
Isaiah 49 says Jesus has etched our very selves, on His hands, not just our names. It’s another exuberant way for the Lord to say how much He loves Christ’s followers, cares for us, and remembers us. When my children were small and fearful or when my grandchildren are scared, I wrap them in my long arms and hold them close to reassure them of my presence and protection. But we can only shield our loved ones from a few things in this dangerous world. Thank God, Jesus shelters us from human and Satanic enemies, and from life-threatening situations every day. His hands were pierced and scarred by the nails of the cross and Christ pledges to never let go of His little flock, His believers. All men, women, girls, and boys who trust and follow Jesus are cherished, guarded, kept out of harm’s way, and preserved in Christ’s wounded hands.
Jesus says: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”4 Our security is in the double power of Christ our Good Shepherd and God our Heavenly Father. In addition, every believer was marked in Jesus with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who guarantees our inheritance until Christ’s return for us.5 Cattle ranchers brand their cattle, loggers carve a symbol on their trees, very important people seal important papers with a wax seal. All these are marks of ownership. The Holy Spirit is God’s proof of ownership for His followers. God the Holy Trinity is emphasizing that He will not let anyone take us away from Him. All these details are given by the Lord to assure Christ’s believers that we are eternally secure in Him. How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Savior’s love for me!
Jesus’ Hands Remain Pierced After His Resurrection
In John chapter 20, “Doubting” Thomas insisted, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Christ said, “Peace be with you!…Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas was persuaded that Jesus was raised from the grave to be alive forever. Then Thomas praised Christ as “My Lord and my God!”6 The Roman emperor at this time was Domitian and he liked to be called “Lord God.” But Thomas is saying more than that. Thomas recognizes that Christ is God Himself and uses “my Lord and my God” as a divine title!7
Only because Jesus is fully God and fully human in one person, can His wounds and atoning sacrifice in our place guarantee our salvation. He wants us to be assured of that. Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy on the cross all for our benefit.
So we can join in singing Lidie Edmunds’ confident hymn:
My faith has found a resting place, Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Ever-living One, His wounds for me shall plead.
Enough for me that Jesus saves, This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me.
Christ tells Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The Bible is full of the Lord’s divine words and deeds “so that we may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His name.”8
Prayer: Lord Jesus, comfort us with your tender love and assure us that you will never leave or forsake us. Help us to rejoice in the secure grip of your nail-scarred hands and to press on in serving you with grateful heart, minds, and lives.
Notes (various translations): 1 Romans 8:29. 2 Pastor Thomas Adams (1583–1652). 3 John 12:41. 4 John 10:28-29. 5 Eph 1:13-14. 6 John 20:24-31. 7 for example Psalm 35:23. 8 John 20:29-31.