For a long time, I’ve wrestled to reconcile the laws and regulations of Sabbath in the Old Testament with the freedom Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, describes in the New Testament. While preparing for a talk several weeks ago, the Holy Spirit showed me some things that brought clarity to my wrestling. It seemed like too much for one blog, so I split it into two parts, each part focusing on one half of Isaiah 49:16. Part 2 will be posted Wednesday, February 24th.
I spent my childhood summers on my grandparents’ farm. I remember my grandfather and I would climb up onto the seat of the tractor and ride out into the pasture to check on his cows. I loved going by the salt lick. (And I admit to tasting it once or twice.) I loved dragging the hose over and filling up the old cast iron bathtub the cows used as a watering trough. Often, we moved the cows from one part of the pasture to another so they could graze on fresh grass. One day while we were out there, I noticed the brand on one of the cows and asked my grandfather about it. He told me how the branding iron was heated up until it was red hot then placed on the hide of the cow until it seared its permanent mark onto the animal.
Early last year, amid a lot of feelings of unworthiness and people-pleasing tendencies, I wrote a little verse on a sticky and stuck it to my bathroom mirror.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:16
It’s that searing mark I saw in the pasture that I think of when I read this verse. Except with God, He took the searing. He took the mark. God uses His messenger Isaiah to remind His people, His children who feel forgotten and defeated, lost and afflicted, that He cannot forget them because they are engraved on His hands. We are seared into His hands. He doesn’t just hold us. We have left a permanent mark on Him.
The metaphorical mark described by Isaiah would become a literal mark on the day God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, went to the cross for us. It would be Thomas who said he needed to see with his own eyes the mark of the nails in his hands, and eight days later, Jesus showed him. “Put your finger here, and see my hands…” John 20:26.
Our worth, our being engraved on the palms of His hands is not determined by what we do. Our worth was determined the day Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, willingly chose to die for us. Our worth was demonstrated the day God willingly watched His Only Son pay the ransom for us. Our worth is not determined by what we do. Our worth is determined by what He did.
When we live life from a place of knowing our worth because of what He did, we can let go of the performance-driven life, the perfectionist life, the control-freak life. We can surrender to rest, divine rest.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-3
The ESV Study Bible says this about chapter 2, “The repeated comment that God rested does not imply that he was weary from labor. The effortless ease with which everything is done in Ch. 1 suggests otherwise. Rather, the motif of God’s resting hints at the purpose of creation. As reflected in various ancient Near Eastern accounts, divine rest is associated with temple building. God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become His dwelling place; it is not simply made to house his creatures. God’s activities on this day all fit this delightful pattern. The concept of the earth as a divine sanctuary, which is developed further in 2:4-25, runs throughout the whole Bible, coming to a climax in the future reality that the apostle John sees in his vision of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ in Rev 21:1-22:5.”
Divine Rest = Temple Building
God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become His dwelling place. When I read that, I flipped over to the page in my prayer journal and looked at some of the verses I’ve gathered for my word of the year, dwell.
Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 16:9 Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
1 Chronicles 17:9 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more.
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. Psalm 24:1
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4
God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become His dwelling place. We know that as believers the Holy Spirit dwells within us. This is why we are here, and this is why Sabbath is so important. Sabbath is divine rest. And divine rest means remembering our worth doesn’t come from a title or an address or an income. Our worth comes from being engraved on His palms, from the marks He bore while He hung on a cross because of His Great Love for us. Divine rest means carving out time and space to build the temple, to be God’s dwelling place.