In my last piece, I wrote about anthropomorphisms – God in human terms.
I focused on the biblical anthropomorphism of God’s two “hands,” the hand of judgment and the hand of mercy. I want to explore more of the anthropomorphism thing with you, dear reader, and I want to extend my reach (pun intended) to God’s arm, hand, and finger. Then in my next piece, I want to show you how Jesus is the literal expression of God’s arm, hand, and finger.
Let’s start with the “arm of the Lord” anthropomorphism. What does it refer to, and what does it mean? The best place to start is with a Bible word search. I entered “arm of the Lord” or “Lord’s arm,” and here is what came up.
When used directly, the “arm of the Lord” refers to God’s strength.
For example, Jeremiah cries out, “Oh, Lord GOD! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!” (Jeremiah 32:17 CSB, italics author). God’s strength is supreme, and nothing is beyond God’s strength. When He extends His arm, God uses all the strength He needs to accomplish He will.
Or this, “Therefore tell the Israelites: I am Yehovah, and I will deliver you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and free you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment” (Exodus 6:6). The Lord thrashed the Egyptians and devastated their nation by His strength alone to free His people. He didn’t even ask the Israelites to “tap in.”
Let’s compare Israel’s strength vs. God’s strength, “For they (Israel) did not take the land by their sword— their arm did not bring them victory— but by Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You were pleased with them” (Psalm 44:3). Israel didn’t take their land by their own strength even though they fought the battles. They only won because God’s strength worked for them and through them. As you read through the Hebrew scriptures, note how many times it says of a leader, “and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him (or her).” We’re the same human beings those leaders or fighters were. So, why should we ever think of doing anything with our strength alone, be it mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual strength? We must seek God’s strength first every day.
There’s a connection between God’s anointing (His Spirit’s work in us) and His strength. “I have found David My servant; I have anointed him with My sacred oil. My hand will always be with him, and My arm will strengthen him” (Psalm 89:20-21). Oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s activity through a person. Do you see the connection? David’s strength came through the Spirit’s presence with him. The Spirit equipped David to do His work, which required the Lord’s strength. The Holy Spirit is the conduit of God’s strength into our lives. Want more examples? There’s Samson (physical strength), Daniel (moral strength), and Moses (leadership strength). But that strength is God’s, under His sole control. No one can force Him to wield His strength, but He offers it to those who need it!
Let’s return to the King David reference, “… My hand will always be with him, and My arm will strengthen him” (Psalm 89:20-21). The Lord’s arm and hand work as a unit as it is with us, which means His strength is not static; it acts. How does the Lord exert His strength into our physical world? This brings us to our next anthropomorphic idiom.
The “Lord’s hand” is His strength in action.
“Being under” (experiencing) the Lord’s hand can be a bad or good thing.
The Lord’s disfavor is seen when His strength works against us. In the book of Ruth, Naomi laments, “No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me” (Ruth 1:13). In other words, Naomi perceives the Lord’s strength is acting against her. Now it’s one thing for the Lord to remove His hand of favor, it’s another for Him to turn His hand against you, and that’s what Ruth is lamenting.
The Lord’s upraised hand is a threat to use His strength, “On that day Egypt will be like women. She will tremble with fear because of the threatening hand of the Lord of Hosts when He raises it against her” (Isaiah 19:16). The Lord’s upraised hand can be a terrifying threat.
The Lord’s hand exerts His strength to cause pressure, “The Ekronites called all the Philistine rulers together. They said, “Send the ark of Israel’s God away. It must return to its place so it won’t kill us and our people!” For the fear of death pervaded the city; God’s hand was oppressing them” (1 Samuel 5:11). The Philistines had something that didn’t belong to them – the Ark of the Covenant. And the entire time they kept it, the Lord’s strength pressed them hard via very painful afflictions until they returned it. (The Hebrew suggests city-wide outbreaks of hemorrhoids. No kidding!) The situation was so terrible they feared the next step.
The Lord’s hand, His strength in action, can cause death! “Then the Lord’s hand will bring a severe plague against your livestock in the field…” (Exodus 9:3). If the Lord’s hand can kill animals, can His strength also kill any human being He desires? Yes. Learn from Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:5, 10.
But don’t cringe in despair! Being under the Lord’s hand can also be a great thing. Our Heavenly Father’s strong hand can do miracles, and guide, inspire, equip, bless, and save us.
The Lord’s hand (His strength in action) does extraordinary things! After Israel crossed the Jordan River to begin conquering Canaan, Joshua set up memorials stones to remind future generations of the great miracle the Lord’s strength did for them. “For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the LORD’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the LORD your God” (Joshua 4:23-24). Yehovah is strong enough to nullify any physical law at any time and in any way He desires. Miracles happen when the Lord moves His hand (strength in action) to override creation’s laws.
The Lord guides us by His strong hand, “A king’s heart is like streams of water in the LORD’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses” (Proverbs 21:1). Are you worried about election results? Pish-posh! The Lord is strong enough to steer even the most rebellious and stubborn leader. But most importantly, the Lord’s hand is so strong that He can guide us precisely where He wants us to go in life. Do you seriously think you can thwart the Lord’s hand when His will moves His strength, especially when you need His guidance? Stop worrying about “what’s my call in life?” or “what should I do?” or anything else. He’s strong enough to get you where He wants you to be. Just relax and cooperate as He works with you. As a side note, it helps to have a committed circle of Christians to help you see the Lord’s hand working in your life. Just sayin’.
The Lord’s hand inspires and stimulates us! “The hand of the Lord was on me, and He brought me out by His Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones” (Ezekiel 37:1). Ezekiel often describes his prophetic inspiration as the Lord’s hand “being on him.”
King David had the same experience, “By the Lord’s hand on me, He enabled me to understand everything in writing, all the details of the plan” (1 Chronicles 28:19). Do you have a mental quandary with which you’re wrestling? Do you need a spiritual revelation about a perplexing matter? The Lord’s strength isn’t limited to the physical arena of abilities. It includes our minds. I can’t tell you how often I’ve asked the Lord to help me understand a situation or procedure on a mental or spiritual level, and BAM! It comes to me. Seriously. Try it, it’s fun.
The Lord’s hand, His active strength, demonstrates His presence. When we read in the Bible of the Lord’s hand being with someone, the sense is that the Lord is surrounding, upholding, assisting, enabling, and supporting them through His presence and strength (Luke 1:66; Acts 11:22). Here is an excellent prayer for us as individuals, our families, our congregation, and the whole Body of Christ: “Oh Lord, let your hand be with us so strongly that all people can experience how real You are through us!”
The Lord’s hand brings blessing. “There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand” (Ecclesiastes 2:24). I love this verse because it is the pinnacle of contentment to me. What a blessing from the Lord’s hand that He brings us to the place of contentment. Though everything may fall apart around us, the Lord, through His arm and hand, His strength and works, has created a place of shalom and rest in us. That is probably the clearest evidence of the Lord’s hand to a fearful and panicking world.
And though disaster strikes or the unexpected crashes our world, the Lord’s hand is most strong to save us, “Indeed, the LORD’s hand is not too short to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear” (Isaiah 59:1). The Lord’s arm has enough reach, and His hand has enough strength to save anyone, whether from circumstances or sin! Be resolute in your prayers for others. Pray for the Lord’s hand to bring deliverance from evil times or the Evil One. No situation or heart is too hard that the Lord’s hand can’t crack it.
And speaking of specifics, the anthropomorphism of “the Lord’s finger” is the targeted outworking of His strength.
When the Lord uses His finger, He’s zeroing in on something specific, which can also be bad or good.
For example, the Lord’s finger hit Egypt with plagues as targeted judgments, “‘This (the gnat plague) is the finger of God,’ the magicians said to Pharaoh” (Exodus 8:19). Pharaoh’s occultists couldn’t replicate the plague. Why? Because Satan’s “arm” reaches only so far, while the Lord’s “arm” is unlimited. Satan’s strength, works, and specific attacks are strictly limited by God’s power and will! God’s finger knows precisely where and how to target His judgments. There is never collateral damage when God’s finger points in judgment. The occultists’ cry also precedes a shift in the Lord’s Egyptian judgments. The very next plague hits the Egyptians but avoids the Hebrews entirely. Talk about a targeted operation! God’s finger pinpoints the guilty and marks the innocent.
King Belshazzar saw God’s finger write his doom on his banquet hall wall (Daniel 5:5-24). It was a specific and final judgment, written in stone. In short, the Lord’s finger wrote, “You’re done.” That night King Belshazzar was killed, and the Babylonian empire fell!
As Jesus ministered, the Lord’s finger flicked demons out of people, “If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (Luke 11:20). What does that mean? It means the Lord is precise, demons are nothing, and God’s finger is a manifestation of His Kingdom. It was by His Father’s power (arm) working through Him (hand) that Jesus could make targeted attacks (finger) against Satan’s foot soldiers. Bad for the demon, good for you.
And speaking of the Lord’s finger doing good, it was by His finger that Yehovah gave us His rules for life, the Ten Commands, “When He finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two tablets of the testimony, stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). As surely as the Lord writes His judgment on king Belshazzar’s stone wall, the Lord wrote His righteous ways on stone tablets for Moses’ covenant.
With the New Covenant, the Lord’s finger does the inscribing of the exact words on a different material, “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). And what will be the condition of those hearts? “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26).
God’s arm and hand (His strength in action) will give us a heart transplant, and His finger (His targeted work) will help us understand His ways and want to walk right with Him.
The Lord is reaching out for you right now to help you in your need. Will you take hold of Him?
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts