One of my favorite scriptures is from Isaiah 49:16 “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”. I wear a Star of David necklace with this scripture on it as well, that’s how much this scripture means to me; I don’t take it off unless absolutely necessary.
As I have said many times before, scripture is a living document; it has meaning on many levels as well as personal meaning. Sometimes a scripture just speaks to our spirits.
So, what does this scripture mean, anyway? Engraving is a type of tattooing. What?? Tattooing?? Isn’t that expressly forbidden, a sin of astronomical proportion?? Not exactly. God is saying He has engraved us on the palms of His hands. Of course this is metaphorical, however, as with many things in the Bible, God teaches us with familiar images and concepts so that we have a reference point. But, doesn’t the Bible forbid tattooing in the Torah? Historically, man has been tattooing practically since the beginning of time. When the edict forbidding tattoos in the Torah was given, the Hebrews had just been released from Egyptian captivity. God did not want His people mimicking the pagan practices of the Egyptians; His people were to be set apart.
And then along comes Isaiah 49:16 referring to tattooing. The ancient Hebrews were known to use charcoal to imprint an image on the palms of their hands, apply ink, and with two needles tied together, puncture the skin to tattoo the image into the palm. When the image was finished the palm was washed with wine. The images were often of the Temple or walls of Jerusalem. The entirety of Isaiah 49:16 reads, “ I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before me.”; a reference to the image “engraved” on their palms. God used what His people were familiar with to tell them how much He loved them; enough to engrave His beloved on the palms of His hands.
Isaiah 49:16 would appear to be a contradiction of the original ban on tattoos. Not so. What is important to remember is that God is most concerned with the attitude or condition of our hearts. When the Hebrews came from captivity in Egypt their hearts were still with their Egyptian captors so tattooing was part of a pagan religious practice; by the time of Isaiah, God’s people were tattooing the Temple on their palms. Attitude change. And so it is with us in everything that we do. The condition of our heart is what matters to God; our motivation for words, thoughts and actions.
The bigger message here is that God loves us to the point that He was willing to tattoo us on His palms. It was true for the ancient Hebrews and it is true for us today. The image of God tattooing His beloved on His palms was a foreshadow of Yeshua hanging on the cross. The palms are among the most sensitive of the body parts, full of nerve endings, so to pierce the palms is a painful process at best, reserved only for the most dedicated willing to endure the pain.
Technically, Yeshua was pierced between the bones of His wrists since the palms would not have been able to hold the weight, but the word picture is there nonetheless; Yeshua, God incarnate, clothed Himself in the flesh of man, lived without sinning, then willingly absorbed the sin of man, His final act to hang on a symbol of shame, His wrists (palms) pierced/engraved with each one of us who would ever draw breath on the face of the earth. Purity of love experienced and expressed.
The totality of Isaiah 49:16 is a picture of love; God engraving His beloved on the palms of His hands to have our names ever before Him so that we are on His mind every moment of every day of our lives and for all eternity. Tattoos are a polarizing subject within the church; people are passionate about their views on tattoos. Whether you like or approve of them or not, God has a tattoo of you on His palm…..
What will your takeaway be of this scripture? That tattooing is not the sinful act it is believed to be? Tattooing is ok and don’t let anyone tell you differently, as long as your motivation is not intended to curse God, or display vulgarity or offense. Those who seek to desecrate the holy find a way to make vulgar that which is meant for holiness. Why were the Jews tattooed during WWII? The tattoos the Jews endured was a purposeful and willful perversion of the ancient practice of engraving the Temple or walls of Jerusalem on their palms to have their beloved, YHVH (the sacred name of God), ever before them.
I would that whatever your view on tattoos may be, that your takeaway is how very much God loves you and me; love to the point of a permanent mark on His palm. God LOVES you, no matter what you have done, no matter what roads life has taken you down, no matter the “sins” you have committed or are actively involved in at this moment, no matter what – GOD LOVES YOU……..