The Tattooed Nursing Mother–Could it be GOD???

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.”

Can You Actually Worship God in the WRONG WAY?

Is there an incorrect or improper way to worship God? Does the living God even care about how we approach Him when we gather for corporate worship? In 2 Samuel 6, King David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem and the people erupt in exuberant praise. In this episode, we see four aspects of genuine worship that teach us how we should approach the Lord in our Sunday services.

First, we should worship God in reverent awe. Uzzah the priest incorrectly transported the Ark of the Covenant on an oxcart instead of carrying it on his shoulders with poles. The Ark toppled and he reached out to prevent it from hitting the ground. We find this shocking response of God in 2 Samuel 6:7: “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.”

All Uzzah was trying to do was to be helpful. He didn’t want the ark to touch the ground. Why didn’t God cut him some slack and show some understanding? This God who is absolutely holy is not very marketable. We as humans would have never “invented or created” a God like this. This startled David. This was an uncomfortable feeling in the presence of a holy God that led David to have a healthy fear.

Our God is to be worshipped in awe and reverence. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Is this how you worship God? Is this your attitude when you walk into a worship service? Do you have a healthy dose of God’s sovereignty and holiness that you stand in awe of Him?

Or do you come with an attitude of casualness? Flippancy? A light-heartedness that doesn’t understand the weightiness and seriousness of coming into the presence of a holy God? Now, I’m not saying that everything about a worship service should be somber and lifeless, but I do believe there needs to be a weightiness to our worship. We need to come as broken people who are saved by grace from a sovereign God who has every right to not save us and we come under His Lordship and His agenda and we bow ourselves in humility and awe under His glory.

Second, we should worship God in overflowing joy. In 2 Samuel 6:14-15, David “danced before the Lord with all his might” and the Israelites celebrating with shouting and blaring of trumpets when the Ark of the Covenant finally gets to Jerusalem. There are two responses to God in this chapter—shuddering in awe and dancing in joy. How can these two go together?

Do you worship God in this way? Do you have joy in your heart that may lead you to dance or give all of yourself before Him? Psalm 47:1 reads, “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” What is the opposite of this type of worship? Worshipping out of duty, or drudgery or going through the motions. That’s the wrong way to worship God. A lifeless, joyless duty bound worship where you simply come to church and have no desire to give you fully to Jesus.

Third, we should worship God in singular focus. David’s wife Michal became judgmental, bitter and upset with David and rebuked him for his outbreak of joy. David told her in verse 21: “It was before the LORD” that he was celebrating. David had a singular focus. He was not showing off in front of others. He was not trying to impress anyone. He was not drawing attention to himself so that people could look at him and see how awesome a worshipper he is. Instead, he has a singular focus with an audience of ONE—God Himself.

When you come to worship, are you more concerned about what others think of you or how you look to other? Are you trying to put on airs so that people will think more highly of you? Or do you simply come with one thing on your heart and mind—God is my audience and I’m here to worship Him alone.

Fourth, we should worship God in vulnerable humility. David was not afraid to be vulnerable before the Lord. He leaped and danced and didn’t care who was around or what people thought of him. In verse 22 he says that he will become more “contemptible” or “abased” in front of others. In other words, when you truly want to be open before the Lord in worship, you need to be vulnerable and humble. You need to be willing to be broken before God no matter what others think because you desire to honor Jesus. David was willing to be misunderstood or humiliated because having a deeper worship experience and relationship with Jesus was more important to him than the opinion of others.

What’s the opposite of this? Guardedness. An unwillingness to be broken. Having a hard heart not ready to repent—coming in with walls. You worship God in the right way when you come broken, humble, vulnerable, even if it means that in your repentance and worship others might misunderstand you.

So this weekend when you enter your place of worship, prepare your heart to come to Him in reverent awe. Prepare your heart to worship Him in overflowing joy. Prepare you heart to worship Him with a singular focus. Prepare your heart to worship Him in vulnerable humility. And this can only come through Jesus Christ alone who grants us access to the very throne room of the living God!

Our Idols are Empty Wind

What in your life gives you the most joy? What in your life provides you the most security? What in your life brings you the most fulfillment? If the answer is anything other than Jesus, you are guilty of idolatry! Tim Keller, in his book Counterfeit Gods, has given an excellent definition of what an idol is. He writes, “It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”

In Isaiah 40-46, the One True God puts the false idols of the pagan nations on trial to try and prove that they are as powerful and magnificent as Himself. Isaiah 41:29 paints a vivid picture of the futility and emptiness of idolatry. It reads, “Behold, they (idols) are all a delusion; their works are nothing; their metal images are empty wind.”

The first thing we see is that idols promise false joy and security. They are a delusion, which fools or deceives us into thinking that they will provide the fulfillment and satisfaction for which our souls desperately crave. The writer of Hebrews warns us as to how deceitful sin truly is in Hebrews 3:12-13 where he writes, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Sin is deceitful. It is tricky. It is an enemy that will promise joy, excitement, and purpose but in the end only hardens you in rebellion against God.

Secondly, the idols to which we so eagerly cling are like empty wind. Think about that imagery. Wind is powerful. It causes things to move. It can blow the trees. It is a powerful force that brings about change. But empty wind is useless. It promises power but always comes up short. That is what idolatry does to us. It promises us power and change but always comes up short.

In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is often portrayed like the wind that blows and brings life to dead places. In contrast to dead lifeless idols, the Holy Spirit breathes His powerful life into hearts when He causes us to be born again. Jesus tells us in John 3:8. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

In addition to causing us to be born again or regenerated, the Holy Spirit also works in our lives to grow us to be more like Jesus. He is not empty wind, but the only source of power and vitality in our lives.

Instead of finding joy, satisfaction, and security in false idols that fools us and come up with empty promises like the lifeless wind, you should place all of your hope in Jesus. Jesus alone should be the only source of your joy. Jesus alone should be the only fountain of your satisfaction. Jesus alone should be the only foundation for your security. He always comes through on His promises! Listen to the amazing words of Jesus in John 15:11: “ These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Jesus alone promises overflowing joy. Our idols only promise false happiness and flit away like the empty wind. Would you find your joy, security, and fulfillment in Christ alone today!