Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In God’s Hands

“For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.”  Ecclesiastes 9:1
“In the hands of God” is one of those Christian clichés that we hear all the time, but have you ever thought about what it really means?

Man, I thought this would be easy.  I figured I’d just do a quick word search and grab a couple of texts to illustrate what I thought “in God’s hands” meant to me.  Was I in for a huge surprise! Nearly 2,000 texts with the word “hand” in them.  I had no idea there could be so many contexts for a single word.  Now I’m really confused!  In some of the texts, having God’s hand on you was not a good place to be.  Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy. Exodus 15:6 for example.  Or The Lord's hand was against them until he had completely eliminated them from the camp. Deuteronomy 2:15.  Then we read about Job, who talks about the Lord’s hand being against him.  That was definitely NOT where I thought this search would take me!  Pretty unsettling, …so I kept looking.

Then I found Ezra and Nehemiah who report a more positive experience with the hand of God:
“And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.” Nehemiah 2:8 and “The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way.”  Ezra 8:31. 
Ok, I liked those much better.
Then we get to the Psalms where the psalmists talk a lot about being in or touched by God’s hand. Just a couple of examples are:
"My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.” Psalm 31:15

”…though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:24

”Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness.” Psalm 48:10
I was definitely on the right track now, but I still want to know, “What does it mean?”  Clearly, it’s not always a good thing.  In fact, if we asked Job, I think he would say that sometimes it’s pretty awful.

I think the most obvious meaning is ownership.  Right?  When something is in someone’s hand, that person owns whatever it is.  So, if we are in God’s hands, we are owned by God.  Many times in the Old Testament God tells a commander of the Jewish army that He would deliver a certain city or people into the commander’s hand.  That pretty much meant that they were going to own that city when the battle was over.  And to go one step further, ownership means control.  So “in God’s hands” could be interpreted as being under His control.  Is that someplace we want to be?

Well, I also read this from something called The Upward Look by Ellen White:
True faith consists in doing just what God has enjoined, not manufacturing things He has not enjoined. Justice, truth, mercy, are the fruit of faith. We need to walk in the light of God’s law; then good works will be the fruit of our faith, the proceeds of a heart renewed every day.
We must not in any way make self our god. God has given Himself to die for us, that He might purify us from all iniquity. The Lord will carry on this work of perfection for us if we will allow ourselves to be controlled by Him. . . .
The work of righteousness cannot be carried forward unless we exercise implicit faith. Move every day under God’s mighty working power. The fruit of righteousness is quietness and assurance forever. If we had exercised more faith in God and had trusted less to our own ideas and wisdom, God would have manifested His power in a marked manner on human hearts. By a union with Him, by living faith, we are privileged to enjoy the virtue and efficacy of His mediation. Hence we are crucified with Christ, dead with Christ, risen with Christ, to walk in newness of life with Him.
We are not to hold ourselves in our own hands. We are to drop self into the hands of God. . . . Our lack of faith is the reason that we have not seen more of the power of God. We exercise more faith in our own working than in God’s working for us. God designs that everything possible shall be done to enable us to stand heart to heart, mind to mind, shoulder to shoulder. This lack of love and confidence in one another weakens our faith in God.
We need to pray as we never have prayed before for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, for if there was ever a time when we needed this baptism, it is now. There is nothing the Lord has more frequently told us He would bestow upon us, and nothing by which His name would be more glorified in bestowing, than the Holy Spirit. When we partake of this Spirit, men and women will be born again. . . . Souls once lost will be found, and brought back.--Letter 105, Nov. 28, 1898, to Elder and Mrs. S. N. Haskell.
I know that’s a really long quote, but it is so clear about what we need to do.  I love the way Mrs. White says that we should “drop self into the hands of God.”

The question is, do we trust God enough to give Him complete control over our lives?  Are we really ready to surrender everything of ourselves to God no matter where He takes us or what happens to us?  We have no assurance that just because we’re in God’s hands, that we’ll always have sunshine, rainbows, and butterflies, in fact, we’re promised some pretty unpleasant/ uncomfortable experiences if we stay with Him.
“In his dying agony, as he yields up his precious life, he has by faith alone to trust in Him whom it has ever been his joy to obey. He is not cheered with clear, bright rays of hope on the right hand nor on the left. All is enshrouded in oppressive gloom. Amid the awful darkness which is felt even by sympathizing nature, the Redeemer drains the mysterious cup even to its dregs. Denied even bright hope and confidence in the triumph which will be his in the near future, he cries with a loud voice, "Lord into thy hands I commit my spirit." He is acquainted with the character of his Father, his justice, his mercy, and great love. In submission he drops into the hands of his Father. Amid the convulsions of nature are heard by the amazed spectators the dying words of the Man of Calvary, ‘It is finished.’” The Love of Christ, Signs of the Times, February 15, 1883
Once again, Ellen White says it all.  Jesus knows that even though the sins of the world have separated Him from His Father, He knows that God is still there, still loves Him and will hold Him in His hands.

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