Thursday, April 23, 2009

In His Hands

I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

                        Isaiah 49.15-16

Note: I caught these verses on the St. Anne’s parish blog, edited and largely written by Missy, a longtime reader here. Thanks for this, Missy!

“I Got It”

I went through four assistants in my years as an agency creative director, all very capable and dedicated, yet none more so than Nancy. She became a creative powerhouse in her own right, which I never doubted she would do. During her apprenticeship, Nancy approached her job as a partner rather than a staffer, not caring much for tools and practices other executive assistants can’t live without. She wasn’t big on note pads, for instance. She’d come to my office empty-handed and, at some point, she’d snatch a pen from my desk to jot a word or two on her hand—often under similarly cryptic notes from two other creative directors she supported. While this made me crazy, I’d usually let it go. But when we were really under the gun, I couldn’t stop from asking would she remember everything. “I got it,” she’d say, with a steely stare that read, “Have I ever forgot anything?”

Two Lords

We find a similar situation in Isaiah 49. Big plans are underway—sketches and schedules to launch a new era in Israel’s history. Isaiah’s the creative lead on this; it’s his job to pitch the idea to Israel, to mobilize and prepare them for what’s about to happen. It’s an enormous task that often leaves him frustrated. In verse 4, he says, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain for nothing.” He doesn’t give up, though. “Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand, and my reward is with God.” Instead of what he wants—fewer responsibilities—Isaiah gets promoted. In verse 6, God takes him off the “local account” and gives him the global business: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob… I will also make you a light for the Gentiles.”

Isaiah returns to present God’s plan to Israel one more time. It doesn’t go well. After he outlines strategies to restore losses, gather far-flung citizens, and build new infrastructure for success, nothing moves them to buy into God’s promises. Verse 14 finds Israel responding, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” To grasp full import of their reaction, we need to note the two “Lords” in their response. “The Lord”—upper-lower case—is the pivotal figure in Isaiah’s presentation, the One promised to deliver Israel from its troubles and sins. But His credibility rests on Israel’s trust in the LORD—all caps—the True God, Who has kept Israel secure and blessed its ventures for centuries. Lately, Israel’s felt neglected by Him. They basically ask, “Why trust a Messiah, when the One sending Him doesn’t seem attentive to our needs?” Like a creative director facing clients who like the concept but doubt it will work, Isaiah turns to his Producer and asks, “Can You take this?” God answers: “I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.” He looks Israel in the eye. “I know what I’m doing. I got it.”

Big Things Ahead

Many are the times when we sit where Israel sits. We’ve been faithful to God and experienced His power repeatedly in the past. But of late we feel forsaken. We’ve trusted Him to keep things moving on our behalf, yet we’re either stalled or, worse yet, losing ground. Our prayers seem to ricochet off the ceiling, while our faith and fortitude take a beating. We search our hearts, thinking perhaps we’ve allowed idle doubts to impede our ability to reach Him. But, as far as we can see, everything’s clear on our end. We open the Word, searching for answers. All we find are big promises of extraordinary things God intends to do for us and through us. Honestly? These grandiose concepts are hard to purchase when everything indicates God’s not attending to mundane problems we’ve always depended on Him to handle. Has He forgot how much we rely on Him?

He has written our names in His hands. He knows what He’s doing. He’s got us. What looks like negligence is how He realigns our priorities to His. Before giving us greater tasks, He sometimes pulls back so we’ll see how thoroughly we rely on Him. This is Jesus’s point in telling the disciples, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15.15) He’s turning over the whole of His ministry to them. He reminds them they’re completely dependent on Him now to guard against them trying to handle future responsibilities without Him. We think God’s left us to manage on our own when He’s really preparing us to trust Him with bigger things ahead. He hasn’t forgot us. He will never forget us. We’re in His hands.

God doesn't forget us. He inscribes us in the palms of His hands.

(Tomorrow: Not Ours)

Personal Postscript: Thank You

Over the past days, we’ve literally been inundated with expressions of love and prayers for comfort during our bereavement for Walt’s mother. We can’t thank you enough, nor can we ever adequately explain how much you’ve lifted us. Your kindness is more than we can possibly repay. How blessed we are to have such magnificent friends! Thank you all so much.

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