‘Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.’ Isaiah 49:16
Suggested Further Reading: Deuteronomy 33:1–5
We have heard of one, an eastern queen, who so loved her husband that she thought even to build a mausoleum to his memory was not enough. She had a strange way of proving her affection, for when her husband’s bones were burned she took the ashes and drank them day by day, that, as she said, her body might be her husband’s living sepulchre. It was a strange way of showing love. But what shall I say of this divine, celestial, unobjectionable, sympathetic mode of showing remembrance, by cutting it into the palms? Words fail to express our intense content with this most admirable sign of tenderness and fond affection. It appears to me as though the King had said, ‘Shall I carve my people upon precious stones? Shall I choose the ruby, the emerald, the topaz? No; for these all must melt in the last general conflagration. What then? Shall I write on tables of gold or silver? No, for all these may canker and corrupt, and thieves may break through and steal. Shall I cut the memorial deep on brass? No, for time would wear it, and the letters would not long be legible. I will write on myself, on my own hand, and then my people will know how tender I am, that I would sooner cut into my own flesh than forget them; I will have my Son branded in the hand with the names of his people, that they may be sure he cannot forsake them; hard by the memorial of his wounds shall be the memorial of his love to them, for indeed his wounds are an everlasting remembrance.’ How loving, then, how full of superlative, super-excellent affection is God toward you and toward me in so recording our names.
For meditation: When he appeared before God on behalf of the people, the Old Testament high priest carried on his clothing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (Exodus 28:9–12,29) and the guilt of the people (Exodus 28:36–38). Our great High Priest has carried in his own body the sins of his people (Isaiah 53:4–6; 1 Peter 2:24), knows every believer by name (John 10:3) and appears before God on their behalf (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24). Are you represented by him?
Sermon no. 512
31 May (1863)