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Feb 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 12, 2012 – “Present Your Bodies”

Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.'” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” Exodus 4:1-2 (read vv. 1-8, 10)

INTRO: I’ve got to hand it to you, you found your way here [we met on Sunday at a new location]

Think about the phrase I used – what did I just “hand to you”?
– what passed from my hand to yours?
What are some other ways that we use “hand” as metaphor?

Today we’re going to meditate on what the Scriptures say about hand

Every once in awhile we have to deal with the fact that our time and culture is very different from what we encounter in the Bible
– we are not those ancient Hebrew men and women
– we don’t think of our bodies the way they did — we don’t think of our breath as spirit or blood as sacred
– our objective way of thinking puts us at distance from our bodies – the world of nature – God

To present our bodies to God is not only an act of worship or dedication to his work
– it’s also a way of celebrating his closeness
– we give him our hands so he can work through them – e.g., plant trees, touch others, and so on
When God’s hand is at work in our hands, then we no longer feel any distance between ourselves and him
Our bodies become space in this four-dimensional universe where God is present

Let’s look at how our hands play a role in bringing God close

Moses was trying to dodge God’s call

“I’m not the guy you want. What if they will not believe me or [lit.] listen to my voice? How can I convince people if I’m not a good communicator? (cf. v. 10)

God’s answer: “What is that in your hand?”
– when Moses said, “A staff,” God demonstrated what he could do with Moses’ hands; namely, God could give Moses’ hands a voice (see v. 8 where “witness” translates the Hebrew word for voice)
– if a person is unable to communicate well w his mouth, God can use his hands
– besides, we already know that what a person does is far more convincing than anything he says

Hands are the most frequently mentioned body part in the Hebrew Scriptures

Not to mention references to fingers, thumbs, palms, and arms

In many biblical stories, the hand is an important sub-theme
– for example, Saul with a spear in his hand, contrasted with David who with his hand played the harp (1 Sa. 18:10)

  • this is not the only time we see Saul with spear in hand (1 Sa. 13:22; 19:9; 22:6)
  • for awhile, Saul changed his tactic – not my hand, but the hand of the Philistines (18:17)
  • later, David was almost surrendered into Saul’s hand (23:20)
  • David, however, refused to “stretch forth” his hand against the king (24:6)

In many places the hand is a metaphor – usually symbolizing power, authority, and control
– the literal meaning of hand disappears when it used of the power of fire (Is. 47:14) or the tongue (Pr. 8:21)

Hans W. Wolf observed that in the parallelism of Isaiah 2:8, the mention of fingers take the metaphor of the hands a step further

Their land has also been filled with idols;
They worship the work of their hands,
That which their fingers have made

– idols were not only manufactured by human hands, but were also “products of [their] art, formed by the fingers”

The hand is also linked to the heart in several places, as the agent of its will (Ps. 24:4)

The hand plays a major spiritual role in the life of the Old Testament believer

  1. First of all, there is the hand of God – for example, with Pharaoh (Ex. 3:20; 7:4, 5)
    – God strikes with his hand but also gives shade (Is. 51:16)
    – God stretches his hands out to his people (Ps. 144:7; Is. 65:2) and into his hands they surrender (Ps. 31:5)
  2. Secondly, the hands of the priest had to be clean (Ex. 30:17-21)
    – when they were ordained, blood was applied to the thumbs of their right hands — sanctifying so they can handle what is holy
    – they were “consecrated,” which means “to fill the hand” — i.e., their hands were too full of the things of God to carry our touch anything else — a total devotion to God and his sacred tent
    – with their hands they transferred the guilt of the worshipers to the heads of the sacrificial animals (Le. 4:4)
    – they would lift their hands to pronounce a blessing on the people (Le. 9:22)
    – Moses specifically prayed that God would, “accept the work of [their] hands” (De. 33:11)
  3. Third, the hands of the people also mattered to God
    – the was to be on their hands–like a bracelet–as a reminder in every work they performed with their hands (De. 6:8)
    – similarly, returning exiles would write on their hands, “To the LORD” (Isa. 44:5) and, as if in response, Yahweh told Israel he could not forget them, “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (49:16)
    – the people could also “stretch out their hands,” to attack others or reach out to God
    – however, God prevented Adam from stretching out his hand to eat from the tree of life (Ge. 3:22)
    – but they could also stretch out or lift their hands in prayer (Ps. 141:2)
    • with open palm raised up, they would make supplication (Ps. 28:2)
    • raised hands also signified in surrender
    • but stretching the hands toward God could also symbolize their longing for him (Ps. 143:6)
    • raised hands in worship was one way that they blessed (or praised) God (Ps. 134:2)

They realized that prayer is the opening of the body, heart, mind, and soul to its Creator

A brief look into the New Testament

Jesus – “stretched out His hand” to touch leper – rescue Peter
– touched the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law, Jairus’ daughter, and a demonized boy when he healed them (Mk. 1:31; 5:41; 9:27)
– “The Father . . . has given all things into His hand” (Jn. 3:35)

The apostles
– practiced the “laying on of hands”
• to dedicate a person to ministry or a work (Acts 6:6; 1 Ti. 4:14)
• for person to receive the Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6)
• to heal (Acts 9:12)
• to perform other miracles (Acts 19:11)

1 Ti. 2:8, “I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension”

Let’s pause here
– look at your hands — can you think of them as holy?
– imagine God pouring his energy into them

De. 28:8, “The LORD will command the blessing upon you . . . and in all that you put your hand to . . .”

CONC: What is that in your hand?

As a minimum, we can use our hands
– to give us immediate insight into our inner state
• wringing our hands – nervous, anxious

Earlier we noted the artistic work of the fingers
– we can use our hands and fingers to rewire our brains by picking up a new skill – assembling models, learning to play an instrument, painting
– this is good for our mental health as well as making positive changes in our lives
– all of this is good, but for what I hope to see, there’s something else we need to think about

A few days ago I went to visit a friend in the hospital
– every time I turned in a corner, entered a door, or got on an elevator, I noticed the same sign
“Infectious disease is most often spread by hands”
– we know about the transmission of these invisible bacteria, so we wash our hands

What we are not aware of is the Spirit of God on and in our hands
– Christians need to relearn, God wants to use our hands as much as our mouths

Theology tells us that the way God worked through Jesus was “incarnational” — that is, through a human body (Jn. 1:14)
– that is how God continues to work

If we could really get a hold of this, it would help us to be more continually mindful of God
– so, by bringing our attention to our hands, we can bring our awareness to God

In the same way that washing our hands is linked to our awareness of germs
– doing anything with our hands can make us aware of the invisible, yet present, Spirit of God
– the more we do this, the closer we will come to the commitment Paul encouraged us to make

Whatever you do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father
(Col. 3:17)

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