By Samuel Clough
Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me. – Isaiah 49:16 (NAS95)
Though most commentators see YHWH as comparing his tender concern for Israel with the religious practice of marking one’s flesh for religious reasons, one can only imagine what YHWH was feeling when He gave this word to Isaiah. This was not just allegorical or figurative language for YHWH. Centuries later, He was going to actually write them on His hands.
Just outside Jerusalem, YHWH laid open His hands before a Roman guard and allowed nails to inscribe Israel forever on His own two hands. Then nail pierced Him and He felt the agony throughout His body. His heart was throbbing in His chest. His body was already wracked with pain as He lay on His back trying to breath and preparing His frame, which was fading fast, for the agony of the cross. As He opened His hand, Israel was driven into the flesh of His palm.
What YHWH prophesied through Isaiah became real and tangible on that dusty hill just outside of Jerusalem. YHWH’s own flesh was now marked for the sake of Israel. It was a permanent piercing so that, for all eternity, those who gaze upon the throne can see His tender love for Israel physically marked on His palms and in His side. Just as Adam’s bride was taken from his side, so too God’s side now has the scar from which His bride is being formed. The wounds are so real that He even invited Thomas to even inspect the actual scars left on His body.
What kind of love brought the Creator to so humble Himself? He not only inscribed Israel on His palm, but He allowed men to do the inscribing. He submitted in love to take the punishment no man could bear. He submitted to humiliation that no other being could endure. Out of love, He forever carved His people on His very body.
Gaze into those pierced hands and you will clearly see Israel inscribed on them. Though Israel was called out as His own, in inscribing Israel on His palms, He also issued an invitation to every man, woman, and child to come into the promises and blessings of Israel. Look carefully again. Not only is Israel carved into His hands, but you beloved are carved there. He has made a way for You to come into all the promises given to Israel.
How can you not give your all in love to such a one? What sacrifice is too great to know that kind of love? Saints, we are actually written on the very hands of God.
By Samuel Clough
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:2 (ESV)
The fragrance that arose from the cross up to the very throne in the heavens was rich and so full beyond the glorious act of the atonement. Jesus did far more on the cross than atone for sins. Recognizing this does not take away from His atonement because that was a massive work that no other being in the universe was capable of accomplishing. Just the consideration of it requires a holy tremble within our heart. However, we must look beyond the doctrine of the atonement and look into the person of YHWH if we are going to perceive the totality of what was happening on that cross. Looking through the atonement to the person will ultimately make the atonement even more rich because it will become rooted, not just in an action of sacrifice, but in the person that accomplished that act.
The cross was an offering with a fragrance and aroma that we cannot even understand. As Jesus of Nazareth hung naked gasping for each breath, an incredibly fragrant aroma rose from that cross and permeated the entire universe. There was a smell everywhere for those that perceived it and it was the very fragrance of God Himself. As Jesus hung there exposed and dying, He exposed for all men the very heart of God. Nowhere is the very nature and identity of God on display as it is on the cross. On that tree, God exposed Himself and demonstrated God as God in fact is. YHWH was put on full display as the Jewish Son of God hung dying, innocent of every accusation. All could see exactly what the nature of God was like by viewing the Son of man gasping, self sacrificially, on that cross. The cross was YHWH at His most vulnerable moment as He willingly allowed His life blood to escape.
As Jesus of Nazareth gasped for breath, tenderly exposed for all who stood by and mocked, a fragrant aroma filled the universe. Every angel could see an aroma rising up just outside of Jerusalem as God was being put on display. From the cross, a divine smell rose and permeated the universe. Angels stood shocked as they smelled the very incense that they have smelled coming from the throne for millennia rising up from a broken, dying Jewish man on a cross.
Demons recoiled in anger and hate as they smelled that fragrance. The were fixated on the suffering and death of the Son of God, but as He hung dying their glee turned to disgust and anger. The fragrance that was rising from that cross and increasingly permeating the universe was their first hint that their plan had gone very wrong. They sought to kill God and as God lay dying, the very fragrance of God will being spread throughout the universe, from the depths of Sheol to the highest heavens. They sought to destroy His revelation through Jesus of Nazareth and instead caused His fragrance to abound.
It is a real tragedy that our minds have been dominated only by the act of redemption on the cross. That act was massive and deserves our focus, but there is another revelation on the cross that is critical and that is the very revelation of the person of YHWH. We are interested in the atonement to secure a release from hell, but what if YHWH is primarily concerned with the revelation of Himself to us over and above our rescue from hell? What if our escape from hell is not primarily about our pleasure, but rather about YHWH’s desire to have a people that know Him intimately and long for deeper companionship with Him so deeply that they cannot even conceive of pleasure apart from intimate union with YHWH and the knowledge of His heart?
We are called to be the bride and I am afraid that most of us are more content with being relatives of God rather than a bride. We want the benefits of knowing the King and living under His benefits, but do we have deep desire for the King Himself? Do we want to lay aside our name and our desires in life so that we can unite with His name and know His desires? Has His happiness become our happiness? Are we truly devoted to YHWH “for better or worse” or are we simply using Him for His benefits?
I am convinced right now, at this moment, the heart of YHWH is pained that so few really gaze deeply into that moment when He exposed Himself tenderly and even vulnerably so that mankind could see the heart beat that is at the center of God. What heartache must be in His holy heart as He reflects on how few can even smell a token of the fragrance that filled the entire universe in His most vulnerable moment when He made His bold declaration of love for a race of beings; most of whom could hardly care if He exists.