“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

Isaiah 49:16

The church of Christ! There is no cause on the face of the earth that is a more sure cause than the church of Christ. The kingdoms of this world may grow until presently they present a united front of almost unbelievable power. The church at the same time will seemingly dwindle down to almost nothing, so that Jesus Himself asks, “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Yet, as Daniel saw in the dream that God gave Nebuchadnezzar, the stone cut out of the mountain without hands—which is the church of Christ—grinds the kingdoms of the world to powder and becomes a large mountain that fills the earth.

In the text above, our attention is called to the certainty of the church’s triumph. It is a passage that shows us that the church will attain to all its glory and beauty because God never forgets her, but remembers her in the Son of His love, Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is speaking here to Zion, which in verse 14 is complaining that God has forsaken and forgotten her. “But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.” Zion is another name for God’s church. It was upon Mount Zion, one of the four hills upon which Jerusalem was built, that David placed his throne. Often Jerusalem was called Zion. The whole city was known by the one famous hill where the king’s palace stood. Thus we read inPsalm 87:2, 3, 5, “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her.” Zion is that city of God. This text speaks of the gates of Zion, referring to the gates of the city and not simply to the hill on which part of that city was built. The idea is not simply that men were born in the king’s palace, but that they were born in the city of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem is often pictured in Scripture as the church of God, including all the New Testament saints among the Gentiles. The members of that church are at the same time the citizens of the kingdom of God. We are not to make a distinction between Jew and Gentile, as though the believing Jews are the kingdom and the believing Gentiles are the church. In Revelation 3:12 Jesus Himself is addressing a Gentile church, the church at Philadelphia, and He declares to these Gentiles, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”

The Gentile believer has a part in the kingdom, for Jerusalem is the capital city of the kingdom. And the Gentile believer becomes a pillar in the temple, which was the center of the whole Theocracy in the Old Testament times. Therefore also there is the statement in Psalm 87 that God loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. That it is called the city of God means that God loves all His elect people, Jew and Gentile alike, and dwells in them in love.

God is speaking here of the whole church. That God has engraved Zion on the palms of His hands means that He has His whole church, all the believers, from Adam to the last one that is born and reborn before the return of Christ, engraved in the palms of His hands. He has Zion engraved in the palms of both hands. It is not so that He has the church on one hand and the kingdom on the other. All His redeemed, elect people are engraved in the palms of His hands as one grand and glorious city. For He speaks of her walls being continually before Him. It is the New Jerusalem, which shall come forth in the day of Christ, and in which all the elect children of God, all believers from Adam onward, Jew and Gentile, shall live with God in everlasting blessedness, that He has engraved in the palms of His hands. It is important to note that God does not have engraved in the palms of His hands Zion as she pined away in the Babylonian captivity. Nor does He have in the palms of His hands Zion as she was in the glorious days of King Solomon, when gold and silver were in great abundance, and there was peace and prosperity on every side. But He has before Him the plan of the New Jerusalem, that glorious city, where all God’s counsel shall be fulfilled and all His covenant promises realized.

Isaiah spoke prophetically of a day when Zion would be in Babylon. The walls of Jerusalem would be a heap of ruins, the city itself a rubble heap. And yet, note, that in the palms of His hands are Zion’s walls. It is then, indeed, Jerusalem or Zion as she shall be in the day of Christ that God has there in the palms of His hands. It is the glorious city of Revelation 21 andRevelation 22, with streets of gold, and gates of pearl, adorned with precious stones, wherein is no sorrow or sighing, night or death, and where all the saints live in everlasting glory and fellowship with God.

Just how does God ‘remember’ His church? It is not that when His church gets into trouble He then recalls that He promised to deliver her from it and purify her in Christ. This is how we remember. We store knowledge away in our minds, and at any given moment, either at will or because of suggestion, the facts of our knowledge come one at a time before our consciousness. We remember in the sense of recalling.

God, on the other hand, has all things continuously before His mind. He retains them consciously before His mind. We retain and then recall. God simply retains and never pushes to the back of His mind for recall for future reference. So we are to understand the statement that Zion’s walls are continually before Him. Not for one slight moment does God lose sight of the New Jerusalem that He plans and promises to realize.

That is presented here in a figure: Zion is engraved on the palms of His hands. What is engraved is there to stay. It is cut into the granite and remains as long as the granite remains. Raised letters on a building or tombstone will wear off by wind, sand, and ice. But what is cut into the rock, engraved into it, remains clear and distinct as long as that rock remains. The “rock” into which Zion is engraved is the palms of the hands of the eternal God. Nothing can wear them down and nothing can erase the plan of the New Jerusalem from these hands. These hands are the eternal and almighty hands wherewith God works all His good pleasure. They contain the future Zion in all her glory. He has her in His mind and in His heart. He loves her and He knows her as His beloved city. Engraved, they are, in the palms of the hands wherewith He works every moment and touches everything in all His wide creation.

The meaning, then, is plain. Always, and through all things, with these hands God is shaping and molding, bending and forming His church and making her like unto the glorious pattern that is in His hands. As the potter molds the clay, as the sculptor chisels the marble, so God molds and chisels the church until He has polished and refined her to be exactly as He from eternity planned that she should be.

As generally for the church as a whole, so also it applies to each and every member specifically. Quite impossible, it is, to make a perfect church without giving care and attention to each and every member thereof. The builder who is careless with one brick will find that his building is not perfect. One piece of wood in that building that is not cut to the exact size, planed down and sanded, will affect the other pieces of wood to which it is attached.

Therefore, when God has Zion engraved upon the palms of His hands as the church that will issue forth in the day of Christ, He has the detail of each and every member of that church there as well. He, not we, determines the size of that church. He, not we, determines the place of each member in that church, even as He, and not we, determined the number and place of each and every member in our bodies. And the church is the body of Christ, according to Scripture. Therefore we may each of us find comfort in this statement of God through Isaiah that we are there engraved in the palms of His hands. We may rest assured that the God who loves and remembers His church loves and remembers each member of that church as well. The God who shapes and molds, forms and fashions, polishes and refines the mass till He has that church according to the pattern in His hands, deals with every individual member of the church in that same way, in order that the whole may be as He planned it.

How does God do this? We may often suffer many grievous pains and misery. The fire that is needed to bend our stiff necks and to burn away the dross may be very hot. The rod of men wherewith He may chastise us may hurt severely. It is, in fact, designed to hurt us. But the motive is His love, and its goal is the everlasting glory that He has before Him in those hands. As He works, He has before Him His hands—that is, the palms of these hands, rather than the upper and outer parts of His hands. It is the part of the hand that touches the material that He is molding and shaping. It is not the clenched fist, the upper, outer part of the hand that strikes the blow of hate and seeks to destroy. It is the inner part of the hand, which lovingly strokes and mercifully yet unyieldingly bends us, breaks and softens our proud hearts, and makes us spiritually like unto the Son of His love, the King of His church.

In this is the church’s sure triumph. We need never fear. How can God’s church ever fail? With the clenched fist He will drive off the enemy. His hand will be a wall of protection for the church upon which He is working. No one shall pluck it out of His hands.

All is well, for God remembers His church. We shall be exactly as He designed us. His church shall come through all the trials and tribulations of this present life as glorious as the plan that He has made for her from eternity. Remember that, in your sorrows and tears, in your bereavements and losses. Remember that God remembers and has His church consciously before Him unceasingly. As Paul puts it, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Who can lift a finger against us when the almighty God is for us? All creatures receive their life and strength from God. He causes every beat of their hearts. Who then can hurt His church? Who can keep Him from realizing all His promises to His church and from bringing forth at the end of time that glorious New Jerusalem that He now has engraved in the palms of His hands?

His people, Zion whom He chose from eternity, He remembers in love. Zion He remembers to bless and prepare for everlasting glory. Zion He remembers in His Son, for all of the New Jerusalem revolves around His Son. He is the walls of that city. It is the city of righteousness. He is the King of that city, and it is through His righteousness that we have a name and a place in that city. He and that city are inseparable.

As Jehovah works with His hands, He sees that whole city in Christ. And for Christ’s sake, to whom He has given all the citizens of that kingdom, He remembers that city only in love. What security! The psalmist in Psalm 48:2a, 12-14 saw it with his eye of faith when he wrote,

“Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion.

“Walk about Zion, and go round about her: Tell the towers thereof.

“Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.

“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”