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Jun 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 6, 2021

Intro: In a moment, I will ask you to read Psalm 17

It is a simple prayer–and there are other psalms like it
– poet is petitioning God for justice – he begins and ends with sedek
• he is going to bring a case into God’s court, as it were
• in the first movement, he argues his integrity
◦ in the next, he petitions God to intervene
◦ next, he presents details of what his deadly enemy has done
◦ then he suggests the sort of punishment they deserve
◦ at the end, he makes a confident assertion regarding the outcome
[now, please read Psalm 17]

– I did not choose this psalm for its message
• I chose it, because every stanza mentions a body part: ear, lips, face, eyes, heart, mouth, etc.
◦ it illustrates how scripture makes use of the body;
◦ the drama of life is played out from head to toe

The poet mentions God’s hand twice – he specifies the right hand in verse 7
– the subject of today’s talk is the hand/s – and it’s a huge challenge
Hans Wolff, “By far the most frequently mentioned extremity is the hand (yad). The part of the body that grasps and can be grasped . . . .” (yad appears 1600 times in the Old Testament!)
• in many instances, hand is an obvious sub-theme
See Job 1:10-12, where Satan claims that Job is an upright man only because God has blessed the work of his hands, but if God were to stretch out his hand, Job would turn and curse him. God puts all that Job had into Satan’s hand, but with a command that against Job he was not to stretch out his hand.
– another example can be found in 1 Samuel 24:4-20
• when reading the Bible, and you come to the word hand,
◦ take note of how it is used – is it a subtle theme?
• in scripture, the hand is the agency of mind and heart
◦ how we externalize our intentions and imaginations
◦ how we make creative changes to our world
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “Human action is concentrated in the hands. Action means ‘doing.’ Our doing gives information about our thoughts and desires; it is their expression. In our work we continue God’s creative task. Therefore doing/working is service to God. Work without reflection (heart) is only reproduction.”

In our English language, hand can represent variety of actions

If I have to hand it to you, I’m either handing you a literal object
– or I’m giving you a compliment; “You certainly know what you’re doing”
We can be dealt a good hand or a bad hand
– in a card game, or a specific situation, or in life in general
We can lend a hand literally,
– or by watching grandkids so their parents have a date-night
A handout can be cash we give to a panhandler
A hired hand is not an appendage,
– but someone who is paid to do a specific task

In the past year we have been reminded to wash and sanitize our hands
– more than ever before –
• we have been made aware that our hands can pick up more than the objects we grab

In the Scriptures, the hand is used to signify many different things

Of course, it is frequently the literal body part
– the tribe of Benjamin was famous for its left-handed soldiers (Jdg. 3:15; 20:16)
• but they could also be ambidextrous (1 Chr. 12:12)
In general, the right hand was favored (as in our psalm)
– the seat of honor was at the right hand of a king (Mt. 14:62; Heb. 1:3)
– priests were anointed on right ear, right thumb, and right toe (Ex. 29:20)
– God’s right hand is filled with righteousness (Ps. 48:10)
• and at his right hand are pleasures forever more (Ps. 16:11)
People are taken by the hand (Ge. 19:16; Mk. 8:23; Acts 9:8)
A person could die by the hand of someone else (Jos. 20:9)
– messages were delivered by the hand of servants (1 Sam. 11:7)
– and by the hand of God’s prophets (Hag. 1:3)
The main symbolic significance of the hand is power
(see Pr. 18:21, where “the yad [hand] of the tongue” is translated “power”)
If a hand fell upon someone, it could either
– harm them (Ge. 37:27; Ex. 9:3) or help them (Neh. 2:8)
To take someone one from the hand of another is a liberation
– the same with taking something harmful from the hand of someone (Ex. 2:19; Isa. 51:22)
To place a hand on one’s mouth is to silence oneself (Mi. 7:16)
Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but I will proceed no further (Job 40:4-5)
The hands can clap for joy and praise (2 Ki. 11:12; Ps. 47:1)
– the sound of clapping can even be heard in nature:
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together (Ps. 98:8)
For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Isa. 55:12)
But clapping can also be a form of insult (Eze. 25:6)
– or a way to ward off someone else’s misfortune (Lam. 2:15)
– clapping can also signal a warning (Eze. 6:11; 21:14)
To shake the fist or wave the hand at someone can be a threat
(Isa. 10:32; Zech. 2:9)
Washing the hands could be declaration of innocence (De. 21:6; Ps. 26:6)
– Pilate’s futile attempt to absolve himself of Jesus’ blood (Mt. 27:24)
– the Pharisees’ ritual hand-washing did not cleanse their hearts (Mt. 15:1-20)
In my hand: to possess something (1 Sam. 12:5)
Into my hand: to be given something (1 Sam. 17:46)
Into your hand: to give something (Ge. 9:2)
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And having said this, he breathed his last (Lk. 23:46)
The work of the hands means something is handmade (Isa. 17:8)
– or it could also refer to manual labor (Pr. 12:14)
To open the hand is to give freely (De. 15:8)
If the hand falls limp, it signifies exhaustion (Isa. 13:7; 35:3)
To take a person’s hand can form an alliance
And when [Jehu] departed from there, he met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him. And he greeted him and said to him, “Is your heart true to my heart as mine is to yours?” And Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand. And Jehu took him up with him into the chariot. And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” (2 Ki. 10:15-16)

In ritual contexts, hands can be lifted in prayer (2 Chr. 6:12-13; Ps. 63:4)
– it is as if the person is reaching out to God
• reaching like this reveals the direction one’s heart is going
The hand can be raised to swear an oath
(most frequently it is God or an angel who does this (De. 32:40; Is. 62:8)
– but it can also be used to get the attention of an audience (Acts 13:16)
A hand on the head of a sacrificial victim transfers sin and guilt (Lev. 4:32-35)
The hand is used to bless – e.g., a child (Ge. 48:14-15)
– when parents saw what Jesus did with his hands, they begged him to touch their children
And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them (Mk. 10:16)
• with upraised hands, the priests pronounced blessings on worshipers (Lev. 9:22)
Laying hands on people can be done to impart healing (Mk. 8:23; Lk. 4:40)
Laying hands on people can be done so that they receive the Holy Spirit (De. 34:9; Acts 19:6)

I wanted to mention the arms and fingers – I’ll cut this short

– we’re must not put our trust in the arm of flesh (1 Chr. 32:8; Jer. 17:15)
• fingers represent more dexterity than the hand that grasbs
• fingers appear in the design and sculpting of idols (Isa. 2:8)
Staubli and Schroer, “In a human hand it is determined whether a piece of wood or stone will be used for plowing, grinding grain, or killing someone [or manufacturing an idol] (Num. 35:16-17).” (also, see Isa. 44:9-20)
Wolff, “When idols are not only called the work of men’s hands but expressly the work of their fingers as well (Isa. 2.8, 17.8), they are no doubt thereby being exposed not only as being the works of man’s own powers and capacities, but also as being the products of his art, formed by the fingers.”
– we see God’s finger when inscribing the law on the stone tablets (Ex. 31:18)
• and again in his artistry when creating the heavens (Ps. 8:13)
• we learn what God can do with just one finger (Ex. 18:19)
◦ Jesus told his critics that if he was exorcising demons by “the finger of God,” then the kingdom of God had come
Staubli and Scroer, [Lk. 11:19-20) “Jesus’ words rely on their knowing the Exodus passage, for only then can one understand why Jesus speaks of the finger of God in this context. He uses a typical rabbinic move, from the lesser to the greater: Moses, with the finger of God, conquered a political power and thus brought liberation; Jesus, with the finger of God drives out demons, and where that happens the reign of God is breaking in.”

I have left out so much I could say about the hand of God 🙁
– it shatters and pulverizes, but also wounds and heals (Job 5:18)
– it supports the life of every living thing (Ps. 104:28; 145:16)
– with it God measures oceans in his palm and spans the universe with hand (Is. 40:12)

Conclusion: A nineteenth century preacher told a story

A boy whose dad was a doctor, asked him,
“Why didn’t God make all our fingers the same length? Wouldn’t it be perfect if they were all the same length?”
– his father handed him an orange and said, “Grab a hold of this”
• when he did, all his fingers, and also his thumb, were even as if they were the same length
T. de Witt Talmage, “You see the Creator makes no mistakes. The whole anatomy of your hand as complex, as intricate, as symmetrical, as useful as Gould could make it.”

The human hand really is amazing
The deaf and mute speak with their hands, especially their fingers
The blind read with their finger-tips
We can love with both hands
His left hand is under my head,
and his right hand embraces me! (Song 2:6)
We can wound with our hand
Blessed be the LORD my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle (Ps. 144:1)
By shaking hands, we can build a bridge of communication
Enter a new relationship, a new partnership, or a new friendship

We can bless with our hands
Henri Nouwen kept a journal in which described his visit to Canada
– he went to meet the people at Daybreak, a home for adults with mental disabilities
– a few days before he was to leave, one of the residents was hit by car
• it was touch and go at first for Ray
• the morning that Nouwen left Canada for home, he visited Ray
◦ Ray’s parents were there too
Nouwen, “I showed Ray’s father how to make the sign of the cross on Ray’s forehead. He had never done this before and cried as he signed his son in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A father’s blessing is so healing.”

I would have thought only priests were qualified to do this
But whose blessing on a child’s life
could be greater than the parents?

A friend tells me that every time he passes my house,
he sends me a blessing
You can do that too – for your friends – for your neighbors
raise your hand toward their home and bless them with peace, with love, and with hope

Pray over your hands
imagine how God can use them

We need to realize, our hands are tools
God’s Spirit will train us in their best use
and he will empower them
to touch and bless the lives of others

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