During times of personal sin and failure have you ever felt like God has somehow abandoned you? Have you wondered if He has stopped loving you? The prophet Isaiah gives us a powerful promise that expresses God’s faithfulness to His children even when they sin. Isaiah 49:13-14 reads, “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”
The prophet calls Israel to worship the LORD for He has compassion and concern for His people, but the Israelites believes God has abandoned them. They cry out, “God must have forgotten me!” Historically, the Israelites were experiencing God’s punishment in Babylonian exile, instead of thriving in the Promised Land.
When we sin, we often feel distant from God. We experience guilt and shame and we want to hide from God. In essence, we are the ones who have wondered from God, while He has never moved. He never leaves or forsakes us.
The Lord answers Israel’s despondency by giving two intriguing metaphors that demonstrate how He truly holds His children fast in His sovereign grip. The first metaphor comes from 49:15 which reads, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” The Heavenly Father is likened to a nursing mother who would never dare forget her child. What mother doesn’t have a special bond with the child she’s carried in her womb for nine months and then gave birth. A mother nurses, cares for, and gives all of her attention to her newborn baby. That is how God cares for us. He doesn’t forget us. He has given us new birth in salvation. He has carried us through difficult times in the past. He compassionately gives us all of His special attention.
The second imagery that Isaiah uses to display God’s gracious protection is in 49:16:
“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” In this unique metaphor, the sovereign God of the universe has “tattooed” his children’s names in the palm of His hands. The visual picture is more than obvious—a tattoo means permanence.
Why hands? The hands signify God’s power and grip. The imagery of “hands” all throughout the Bible symbolize God’s power and deliverance—especially in the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus. This poignant truth teaches us that God has us permanently and securely in His powerful hands. Remember what Jesus said in John 10:28–29: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
These are two wonderful promises for those who have strayed from God in sin and rebellion. He tends to you like a nursing mother and also has you permanently engraved in the palm of His hands. But these promises are not automatic nor universal for all people. These promises are only true and sure for those who have repented of their sins and placed all of their trust in Jesus Christ alone to save them. This is a promise only for believers—those who have recognized their sin, confessed that sin, and trusted in the cross of Christ to totally take away that sin.
If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, never despair when you sin or fail. Never think that God has abandoned you. Never question if God loves you. He proved it once and for all by sending Jesus to die in your place on the cross and take the punishment you deserved. Whenever you doubt God’s love or care for you, look to the cross and remember these two powerful images: like a nursing mother and as one who has you engraved in His hands, the sovereign Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. And this can all be true because of Jesus! Rest in His love today and find your ultimate security in Him alone. Hold firm to the promise in James 4:8: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”