“See, I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49:16
People in my church think I’m a rock star when it comes to remembering names. I’m actually more like a rock: hard and impenetrable. In order to have a shot at remembering someone’s name, I need to have a conversation with the person in which I say their name out loud, consciously connecting the face with the conversation with the name. There’s still no guarantee.
God has a more direct, corporeal, failsafe approach. Scripture says our names are “engraved on the palms of [God’s] hands” not unlike the tattooed names we find on people today as statements of love and fidelity. But Isaiah goes a step further, as another minister once pointed out to me, making the image more literal than metaphorical.
In ancient times, it was common for a master’s name to be tattooed or branded on a slave. But never would you find the name of a servant tattooed on the master. Yet that’s exactly what we find in Isaiah. And note that Isaiah doesn’t say God has a tattoo. Isaiah says, “I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands.” Engraved as in with a hammer and a chisel …or a spike.
When Jesus’ hands were pierced, when the resurrected Jesus showed those hands to the disciples, it was an enduring sign of God’s unfailing love for all humanity, etched in his flesh. Although he was forsaken, and still is today, he will never forget or forsake you. Your name is right there.
Lord, your faithful love bring me to my knees as I praise the name above every name.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.