It doesn’t take much to notice that getting “inked” is very popular these days. Some tattoos are so small that one barely notices them. Others—from athletes to actors to everyday people—have opted to cover much of their bodies with multi-colored inks, words and designs. The trend seems like it’s here to stay, a trend that netted $3 billion in revenue in 2014—and an additional $66 million for tattoo removal.
Regardless of how you may feel about tattoos, Isaiah 44 speaks metaphorically about people writing something on their hands: “The Lord’s” (v. 5). This “self-tattoo” is the climax of an entire paragraph that speaks of the Lord’s care for those He had chosen (v. 1); they could count on His help (v. 2); their land and their descendants were marked for blessing (v. 3). Two simple, powerful words, “The Lord’s,” affirmed that God’s people knew they were the possession of the Lord and that He would take care of them.
Those who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ join can confidently say of themselves, “The Lord’s!” We are His people, His sheep, His offspring, His inheritance, His dwelling. These are the things we cling to in the varied seasons of life. While there may be no external mark or brand or tattoo, we can take heart that we have the witness of God’s Spirit in our hearts that we belong to Him (see Romans 8:16–17).
“I love you!” my dad called out as I slammed the car door and headed into school. I was in sixth grade, and for months we had played out basically the same scenario every morning. We arrived at school, Dad said, “Have a great day! I love you!” and all I said was “Bye.” I wasn’t angry with him or ignoring him. I was simply so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I didn’t notice his words. Nevertheless, my dad’s love remained steadfast.
God’s love is like that—and more. It endures forever. The Hebrew word that expresses this steadfast kind of love is hesed. It’s used over and over again in the Old Testament, and twenty-six times in Psalm 136 alone! No modern word can fully capture the meaning; we translate it “kindness,” “loving-kindness,” “mercy,” or “loyalty.” Hesed is a love that is based on covenant commitment; love that is loyal and faithful. Even when God’s people sinned, He was faithful in loving them. Steadfast love is an integral part of the character of God (Exodus 34:6).
When I was a child, I sometimes took my dad’s love for granted. Sometimes now I do the same thing with God’s love. I forget to listen to the Lord and respond. I forget to be grateful. Yet I know that God’s love for me remains steadfast—a reality that provides a sure foundation for all of my life.
Recently a friend who sold homes for a living died of cancer. As my wife and I reminisced about Patsy, Sue recalled that many years ago Patsy had led a man to faith in Jesus and he became a good friend of ours.
How encouraging to recall that Patsy not only helped families find homes to live in here in our community, but she also helped others make sure they had an eternal home.
As Jesus prepared to go to the cross for us, He showed a keen interest in our eternal accommodations. He told His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you” and reminded them that there would be plenty of room in His Father’s house for all who trusted Him (John 14:2 nkjv).
We love to have a nice home in this life—a special place for our family to eat, sleep, and enjoy each other’s company. But think of how amazing it will be when we step into the next life and discover that God has taken care of our eternal accommodations. Praise God for giving us life “to the full” (John 10:10), including His presence with us now and our presence with Him later in the place He is preparing for us (14:3).
Thinking of what God has in store for those who trust Jesus can challenge us to do as Patsy did and introduce others to Jesus.
God’s Hidden Hand
My friend was adopted by a missionary couple from Michigan and grew up in Ghana. After his family moved back to Michigan, he began college but had to drop out. Later, he signed on with the military, which eventually helped him pay for college and took him all over the world. Through it all, God was at work, preparing him for a special role. Today, he writes and edits Christian literature that ministers to an international audience.
His wife also has an interesting story. She failed her chemistry exams during her first year of college due to the strong medication she had to take for epilepsy. After some careful deliberation, she switched from studying science to studying American Sign Language, which had a more manageable workload. Reflecting on that experience, she says, “God was redirecting my life for a greater purpose.” Today, she is making His life-changing Word accessible to the hearing-impaired.
Do you sometimes wonder where God is leading you? Psalm 139:16 acknowledges God’s sovereign hand in our lives: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” We don’t know how God will use the circumstances of our life, but we can rest in the knowledge that God knows everything about us and He is directing our footsteps. Though His sovereign hand may seem hidden, He’s never absent.
The loneliest Christmas I ever spent was in my grandfathers’ cottage near Sakogu, northern Ghana. I was just 15, and my parents and siblings were a thousand kilometers away. In previous years, when I had been with them and my village friends, Christmas was always big and memorable. But this Christmas was quiet and lonely. As I lay on my floor mat early Christmas morning, I remembered a local song: The year has ended; Christmas has come; the Son of God is born; peace and joy to everybody. Mournfully, I sang it over and over.
My grandmother came and asked, “What song is that?” My grandparents didn’t know about Christmas—or about Christ. So I shared what I knew about Christmas with them. Those moments brightened my loneliness.
Alone in the fields with only sheep and occasional predators, the shepherd boy David experienced loneliness. It would not be the only time. Later in his life he wrote, “I am lonely and afflicted” (Psalm 25:16). But David did not allow loneliness to cause him to be despondent. Instead, he sang: “My hope, Lord, is in you” (v. 21).
From time to time we all face loneliness. Wherever Christmas may find you this year, in loneliness or in companionship, you can enjoy the season with Christ.