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Walter Albritton

May 24, 2020

 

When your hands become tools of blessing

 

            The word “hand” is found 1500 times in the Bible. When Cain killed Abel, the ground opened to receive Abel’s blood “from the hand” of his brother. Moses took the staff of God in his hand. When Moses’ hands grew tired, Aaron and Hur held his hands up.

Though the Bible teaches us that God is a spirit, it also speaks figuratively of God’s hand. The “right hand” of the Lord was “majestic in power.” The Lord “stretched out his hand” many times against the enemies of Israel. Isaiah heard the Lord saying that He would strengthen and help him “with my righteous right hand.”

Jesus spoke of the hands of his Father. Dying on the cross, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” The early church grew because “the Lord’s hand was with them.”

Popular hymns and songs help us praise God for the blessings of His hands. One hymn especially comes to mind: “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” My soul rejoices every time I sing the words, “Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided; great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

Another hymn that touches the heart is “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” During many hard times, I have found comfort in singing, “Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.” And who is not blessed by the singing of “He’s got the whole world in His hands” or “Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee”?

Since biblical times, placing your hand on the head of another person has been a sign of blessing. The Hebrew word for “to consecrate” means “to fill the hand,” intimating that without consecration we have little or nothing to offer God. When bishops ordain elders in the church, they place their hands on the heads of the elders while praying prayers of consecration. When my young sons fell asleep in their beds at night, I would often kneel beside them and pray aloud a prayer of blessing for them, with my hands resting gently on their heads.

Love is often expressed by the simple gesture of holding hands. It was a special moment when I finally dared to hold Dean’s hand when we began dating as teenagers. Years later, when our four-year-old son Steve was facing surgery, he asked me to hold his hand. Sometimes, when a loved one is dying, and words are stuck in our throat, we offer our love by holding hands.

The gospels tell us that when Jesus was healing the sick, he often “laid his hand” on them and healed them. Mothers brought their babies to Jesus, asking him to place his hands on them. On one occasion, in a synagogue, Jesus encountered a man with a withered hand. When Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand, the man stretched it out and it was healed.

Hands can be useful or useless. When they are idle, they become “the devil’s workshop.” The devil is defeated when we use our hands for loving purposes rather than violent ones. The man whose withered hand Jesus healed could thereafter use his hand to bless others. Dedicated to Jesus, our hands become tools of blessing.

When I was knocking on death’s door because of an embolism, caring doctors and nurses used their hands to treat and comfort me. When you are too weak to wipe your own brow, the tender caress of a kind nurse makes you glad to be alive. Because of the nurses I have known, I never tire of singing the praises of the nursing profession. They are the unsung heroes of our society – because their hands make a difference.

Look around and you will see hands consecrated to Jesus using chain saws, preparing food for the elderly and the poor, sewing baby blankets, repairing a roof damaged by a storm, delivering care packages and food to the needy, assembling worship videos to be seen by people unable to attend church, preparing lessons for children unable to be in a classroom – all at work to honor the Christ!

When a friend of mine was struggling with a fatal illness, and unable to help himself, his friend John went to his home and rubbed his back and legs several times a week. John was a trained nurse and knew how to use his hands to bless a dying friend.

Helen Keller was liberated from blindness by a dedicated caregiver. Describing this dramatic rescue later, Keller wrote, “I was groping in darkness, like a ship lost at sea. One day I stretched out my hand and someone took it – someone who would teach me all things, but more than that, would love me.” Helen’s life was changed because Ann Sullivan took her hand.

An American tourist, visiting Albert Schweitzer at his hospital in Africa, was stunned to see the famous doctor using a wheelbarrow on the grounds. He expressed his amazement by asking Schweitzer, “Sir, how is it that you are pushing a wheelbarrow?” The good doctor calmly replied, “With two hands.”

In these maddening days of the coronavirus pandemic, consider what you are doing with your hands. You can sit on your hands and do nothing but whine about our bleak circumstances. You can raise your hands in protest of what others are doing – or not doing. Or you can think creatively of simple ways to use your hands to make a difference.

Dedicated to Jesus, our hands can become a blessing. So let’s get off our hands and work together with our heroes on the front lines whose hands are hard at work helping us get through this tough time. We will get through it – if we stretch out our hands.

All hands on deck! + + +