Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the Jewish people in the days right before the birth of Christ. God had not spoken through his prophets in about 400 years. What may have people been thinking about the Lord?
Do you think some started wondering if God had forgotten them? … That maybe, just maybe, God had forgotten to send their Messiah?
Has there even been a time in own lives, when we may have doubted God’s faithfulness; maybe we’ve wondered if God has forgotten us?
The good news is that Christmas was yet another reminder that God is truly faithful; he does NOT forget his promises to his children! There are some important words I’d like to briefly highlight that help to make this point clear.
“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]
I love the argument of reductio ad absurdum which the LORD uses in these verses! The LORD demonstrates his faithful love by pointing to how physically and emotionally absurd it would be for a nursing mother to forget the baby at her breast. Allow me to be so bold to elaborate.
First, a mother cannot physically forget her baby. Nursing mothers do not need an alarm clock to know when to feed their babies. When the milk “comes in” mom is uncomfortable. The more a mother nurses, the more milk she produces, and the more she needs to nurse. Unforgettable reminder!
Second, a mother cannot emotionally forget. When a mother is nursing, the chemical oxytocin is released that makes her feel a euphoria or extreme joy in being with her child. Another unforgettable reminder.
And so, it is even more absurd that the LORD would ever forget us.
The LORD promised this to Old Testament Israel. He would not forget the walls of Jerusalem; broken and crushed walls. In other words, he is saying: “Everything about your life is before me. I never forget you. I see your brokenness, your heartache, your sadness, your despair, your loneliness, and everything that is crushed into pieces.” Can a mother forget her child? Absurd! How much more has God fixed his attention on us!
Our Savior-God has an even greater memory device. He has engraved us on his hands. Engraved can mean “to cut into, to carve, to tattoo, or to engrave with hammer and chisel or nail.” God does this as a way to remember us.
Others see a reference to a slave-and-master relationship. A slave would have the master’s name tattooed on his hand or body to mark him as the master’s property. In a stark contrast, the LORD, however, engraved our names onto his hands! That means the master is completely devoted to the slave!
Why would someone “cut” their hands to remember something? Think of what we use our hands to accomplish:
- To show affection
- To demonstrate friendship/fellowship
- To work, build, and protect
A warm embrace or hand on a shoulder is not soon forgotten. A friendly handshake makes a lasting impact. A long sliver pierced into a carpenter’s hand will cause him to remember that particular wood board! In a much greater way, the LORD will not forget those whom he holds in his hand, those with whom he shares lasting friendship, and for whom his hands labored so hard!
God has “cut” us into his hands, so that no matter how busy his work in this infinite, macroscopic universe, he will not forget us! This is far, far more than just a string around the finger!
Another word is important to remember: See! “See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands.”
I am reminded of our risen Savior’s invitation to doubting Thomas (Thomas who wondered, perhaps, had God forgotten him): “Put your finger here, see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side; stop doubting and believe!”
I hear my Savior speak to me, offering a similar invitation through Isaiah: “See I have engraved you on the palm of my hands; I will not forget you … Stop doubting and believe!”
In the hard work of redemption, Christ remembered us! The One who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” has made it impossible for us to ever be forgotten! He remembered us when he entered his kingdom! No matter what God is up to today, rest assured, that he is busy … busy remembering you!
In the fictional children’s story, The Tale of Three Trees, a great truth is revealed. It is the truth of God’s faithfulness even when we may not understand, even when we may think he’s forgotten – when we have been given every reason to stop doubting and believe – we are given the account of our Savior’s birth which testify that our Lord will not forget us.
See! We are engraved on his hands!
Unforgettable! That’s what we are!
by Rev. Edward Frey
Messiah Lutheran Church