Preacher: Tamara Lamb
Scripture: Isaiah 49:8–16
As I was seeking God and preparing for this, my first homily, I kept hearing in my spirit, “You are a marked woman.” Interestingly enough Kate shared this same message on Ash Wednesday, so I took this as confirmation that I was perhaps on the right track. So with that said, I want to share with you that those who are in Christ are marked, and God “will never forget you.”
So what is this being marked about anyway? The definitions of the word “mark” include a visible impression or trace on something. A line, cut, dent, stain, or bruise. It’s also defined as a symbol, or inscription. A mark gives information, identifies, and indicates origin or ownership. It can also attest to character and comparative merit. The background of Isaiah chapters 1 through 39 is about the Israelites, Judeans and their continual rebelliousness against God. They were constantly sinning and worshipping idols and sacrificing their children to false gods. They were, as some say, a hot mess. The bottom line for all of us is to remember that God is LOVE and does not tolerate SIN!
What I find most compelling about God is the continual forgiveness of his children. God blesses us daily whether we are grateful and obedient or not. God is always faithful because he cannot deny his word. Psalm 138:2 says, “He values his word over his name.” However, he will discipline us when we have been disobedient to his words, which are his commandments, and he disciplines out of his love for us.
Let me tell you, I know all about discipline and being disciplined: her name is Jackie Lamb, my mother. I’m sure you all have been there. I hit puberty and, as my grandmother used to say, lost my natural mind. After all, I knew I could handle and make the best decisions regarding my life. Because in my mind, I was grown. I was mature, smart (which by the way I am), wise, and in addition to all of these great qualities, I knew more than her anyway, or so I thought. Jackie Lamb, like our Heavenly Father, had to correct me not once but many times during my adolescent years and even as a young adult. When she would correct me I would question why she was treating me like a child. I had all but convinced myself she didn’t really love me; I was feeling misunderstood, unloved, and, in an odd way, abandoned. I’m sure this is how the people referenced in Isaiah were feeling, too, but in the remaining chapters of Isaiah, who shows up? None other than the God of Love. The God of Second Chances. The God of Hope and Salvation.
I was struck by the scripture reading in Isaiah 49:15. God, through Isaiah, asked an important question: “Can a mother forget the infant at her breast and walk away from the baby she bore?” Isaiah answered, sometimes, but even so, God will never forget you. In verse 16 this promise is what pierced my soul: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” In all our imperfections, we are loved and remembered by our creator so much so that we are permanently marked on his hands.
God wants you to know that he will never forget you. He confirmed this through the sacrifice of his son for your sake and mine. Jesus suffered dearly for us but through this act, he secured the destiny of those who believe and trust in him. Being marked can mean many things, likebeing bold in the Lord, knowing who you are in Christ, and living that destined life. It can also mean you are single-minded—your thoughts and actions are only for Jesus. Either way, you were chosen because you are that important to God. Typically, a mother’s love is pure and unconditional. But sometimes, a mother makes a mistake in the delivery of that love, as Isaiah reminds us. But I am here to confirm that God will never forget you. He simply can’t.
Each year, I ponder this ultimate love and sacrifice, and it touches me in deep and profound ways. I could not only see, but felt, the ripple effect surround me, like when a drop hits still water. In that moment I felt so connected, and so loved. When I woke up, the words from one of my favorite songs was on my heart:
I want you as you are, not as you ought to be
Won’t you lay down your guard and come to me
The shame that grips you now is crippling
It breaks my heart to see you suffering
Don’t think you need to settle for a substitute
When I’m the only love that changes you
Open your heart
It’s time that we start again
I am for you, I’m not against you
If you want to know
How far my love can go
Just how deep, just how wide
If you want to see
How much you mean to me
Look at my hands, look at my side
If you could count the times I’d say you are forgiven
It’s more than the drops in the ocean
These words summarize best what I have experienced in this journey of love and correction and in this journey of repentance and forgiveness. My prayer is that you will continue to experience the unconditional love of God in new and marvelous ways this Lenten season. You are marked by God. You are engraved on his hands and in his heart. And most importantly, you are always before him.