While preparing to share a biblical study of the word tattoo with my 23-year-old tattooist grandson, Jonathan, my eyes and heart were reproved, but rejoicing followed. I call these moments, “Ouch hallelujahs.” It’s like going to the chiropractor to get an adjustment, which can “hurt so good.” Well, I received an adjustment recently.
For the word study, I knew my centerpiece verse would be Isaiah 49:16a KJV, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…” I began my notes explaining how very sensitive the palms of our hands are with the hundreds of nerve endings so important for our tactile abilities. And I made a note in the margin about how wonderful it is for God to know our name.
I laid the Bible aside and began reading some commentaries from different sources. I found a quote regarding this verse by C. H. Spurgeon, which reads, “These words apply, first of all, to God’s ancient people, the Jews. But they are equally true of all believers.” Spurgeon adds, “The phrase, ‘I have graven thee,’ does not say thy name. Our name is there, but that is not all: I have graven THEE! See the fullness of this! I have graven thy person, thine image, thy case, thy circumstances, thy sins, thy temptations, thy weaknesses, thy wants, thy works; I have graven thee, everything about thee, all that concerns thee; I have put thee altogether there. Wilt thou ever say again, that thy God hath forsaken thee when he has graven thee upon His own palms?”
My jaw dropped as I read this, and I sat, unbelieving, for a few moments. I went back to the Isaiah 49 passage and read it again and again. Somehow, someway, I had ALWAYS thought this verse said that my NAME was graven on his palms, but in reality, it’s so much more. This is where the “ouch hallelujah” came in along with an enormous adjustment that changed my belief and my life. I had been quoting that Scripture so very wrong for so many years.
From this experience, I learned that knowing the whole Scripture, each God-breathed word, is best. But because each word is life giving, knowing even a portion is good. Proverbs 4:20-22 KJV says, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”
Those years when I thought just my name was tattooed on my Father’s palms brought comfort, but in reality, I am written there. All of me, and He loves me still. You are there. And He loves all of you, too.
~ Beth Bankert
Footnote: Just days before sharing this with Jonathan and his family, there was a prestigious competition held in Indianapolis for tattooists. Jonathan was very sad to miss this opportunity as he was on vacation with his family. But a friend and client of his paid the entrance fee and entered the tattoo Jonathan had done for her on her ankle. Jonathan was elated to hear that he had won first place in the “traditional” category! A photo of the tattoo is pictured above.