God's Hand is On You
God's Hand is On You
Hands are very important. On her wedding day, I took hold of our daughter’s hand and passed it over to the minister (who happened to be our son). His hand (for these purposes) represented God’s hand. He, in turn, joined her hand to that of her husband. Symbolically, I gave her to God and God gave her to her husband. A key part of the marriage ceremony is the joining of hands.
At one level, your hand is simply your palm, fingers and thumb. But when we use the word ‘hand’ we often mean it in more than just a physical sense. The ‘hand’ can be used as a metaphor for action, care and possession.
God uses hands. We read of Jesus healing through laying his hands on sick people, or even just touching them with his hands (for example, Mark 6:5; 8:23). At other times, he put his hands on people to bless them (10:16). He told his disciples that their hands would be used to heal the sick (16:18). Indeed, people were healed through the laying on of their hands (for example, Acts 8:17–18). Others were filled with the Holy Spirit (9:17; 19:6), or received gifts through the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6).
What about ‘the hand of God’? What does that mean? In the Bible, ‘the hand of God’ means something very profound. Ezra said, ‘Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage…’ (Ezra 7:28). God’s invisible and intangible hand is also on you: leading, guiding, encouraging, protecting, strengthening and giving you courage.
God’s hand is open and generousPsalm 145:13b–21
‘You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing’ (v.16). This metaphor of the extraordinary generosity of God, who opens his hand to you to satisfy your desires, comes in the middle of a section of the psalm that describes God’s great love and faithfulness.
The poet, Robert Browning, wrote, ‘I have lived, seen God’s hand through a lifetime, and all was for best.’ ‘God gives a hand to those who are down on their luck’ (v.14a, MSG). ‘The trademark on all his works is love’ (v.17b, MSG).
‘The Lord is faithful to all his promises’ (v.13b). This psalm is full of wonderful promises. The Lord will uphold you (v.14). ‘The Lord is near’ to you (v.18), he fulfils your desires (v.19), he watches over you (v.20). All this inspires praise: ‘My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name forever and ever’ (v.21).
‘Father, let me hold your hand, and like a child walk with you down all my days, secure in your love and strength’ (Prayer of Thomas à Kempis, c.1380–1471).
God’s hand writes your name in the book of lifeRevelation 13:1b–18
What an amazing privilege to have God’s hand write your name in ‘the book of life’ belonging to Jesus (v.8b). In the face of persecution ‘God’s holy people passionately and faithfully stand their ground’ (v.10b, MSG).
The first ‘beast’ (v.1b) appears to be a persecuting power. This chapter contains a description of human government at its worst – a demonic power. It needs to be read alongside Romans 13, in which human government is seen at its best – a godly authority. All human government is a mixture of Revelation 13 and Romans 13. Some governments are more like Romans 13, and some more like the description here. Do not be surprised, therefore, by governments making anti-Christian laws and even persecuting the church.
Perhaps the ‘seven heads’ (Revelation 13:1b) represent the seven hills on which Rome was built (see 17:9). The prophet Daniel saw beasts that look like the leopard, the bear and the lion, representing three successive world powers (Daniel 7:3). Here they are all rolled into one (Revelation 13:2).
‘The fatal wound’ that ‘has been healed’ (v.3) may refer to Nero (notorious for his persecution of Christians), who attempted suicide in AD 68 and was believed to have survived or come alive again (according to legend). This could be seen as a parody of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The beast attacks God’s people for forty-two months or three and a half years (this is typically the period that represents the time between the first and second coming of Jesus – that is, the age of the church). The beast persecutes the church. He makes ‘war against the saints’ (v.7). He has a large following.
The only ones who do not follow him are all those whose names are written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb, who was slain from the creation of the world (v.8b).
The second beast is a pseudo-Christ figure. He performs ‘great and miraculous signs’ (v.13). He is a deceiver. He forces everyone to have his mark on their right hands or on their foreheads (v.16). His number is 666 (v.18).
The number 666 at one level may again represent Nero, since the Hebrew letters for ‘Nero Caesar’ when converted into numbers total 666. On another level, numbers in Revelation are normally symbolic. Six is the number of imperfection (since seven is the number of perfection). 666 is therefore the number of triple imperfection, or complete sinfulness.
‘This calls for wisdom’ (v.18a). Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light and his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 11:13–14). The first beast has a ‘mouth like that of a lion’ (Revelation 13:2). The second beast has two horns ‘like a lamb’ (v.11). It is as if they are trying to appear to look like Jesus (who is the Lion and the Lamb, see Revelation 5:5–6).
Later, we will read of a third beast – Babylon (see Revelation 14:8 and chapters 17–18). The three beasts together seem to masquerade as a diabolical parody of the Trinity. They seem great and deceive many people. We need wisdom to discern the good from the evil.
Thank God that by his hand he has written your name in the Lamb’s book of life.
Lord, please give me wisdom, faithfulness and patient endurance. Help me to overcome evil with good.
God’s hand is on those who look to himEzra 7:11–8:14
God’s hand was on Ezra. The book of Ezra is about a community making a fresh start. It is not about one man. However, God did use Ezra in a special way.
Ezra knew that the Lord’s hand was on him: ‘Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me’ (7:28). Ezra takes a further 1,500 men – probably about 5,000 people in all – with him (8:1–14).
In tomorrow’s passage, we also read: ‘the gracious hand of our God was on us’ (v.18); ‘the gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him’ (v.22); ‘the hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way’ (v.31). As you look to God, you can be sure that God’s hand is on you as well.
Ezra was a priest and a teacher who had studied the Scriptures very closely – ‘priest and scholar, expert in matters involving the truths and ways of God’ (7:11, MSG).
God worked through a secular leader (Artaxerxes) to bring about his good purposes. Again, we are reminded that ‘the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases’ (Proverbs 21:1). Artaxerxes wrote a letter ordering provision for Ezra (Ezra 7:12 onwards).
Here we see an example of secular government that is more like Romans 13 than Revelation 13. Artaxerxes writes, ‘You are sent by the king... to enquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God which is in your hand’ (Ezra 7:14). He continues, ‘I authorize you, Ezra, exercising the wisdom of God that you have in your hands, to appoint magistrates and judges so they can administer justice… Anyone who does not know the teaching, you teach them’ (v.25, MSG).
Ezra says, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honour to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way and who has extended his good favour to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials’ (vv.27–28).
When God’s hand is on you, you are like a light on a hill (Matthew 5:15). His light shines out of you and it will attract people to him. He will use you as a leader, equipping you with all the courage and authority you need.
Lord, thank you that your gracious hand is on everyone who looks to you. Thank you for your love, mercy and protection. Because your gracious hand is on me I look to you today and take courage.
I am slightly struggling with Revelation. I was looking for comfort from the Bible today, so I think I will stick with the psalm (I am not sure I feel strong enough for persecution!).
‘The Lord is… loving to all he has made’ (Psalm 145:13b). The Lord ‘upholds’, ‘lifts up’, satisfies, ‘is near’, ‘watches over’ (vv.14–20).
Now I feel better.
Verse of the Day
‘Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage…’ (Ezra 7:28).
Hiram Corson, Introduction to Robert Browning, (IndyPublish, 2002) p.306.
Simon Thomas, ‘It’s all in hand: the lexical might of the humble “hand”’ (posted 2 May 2018), Oxford Dictionaries, https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2018/05/02/lexical-hand-phrases/
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.