The “Power” Series #4



TEXTS:       Ex. 17:8-15;  Gen. 14:22;  Ez. 20:5-7;  Lev.16:8-10,20-22;  1 Tim. 2:8


INTRO:       The hand has always been a powerful symbol of great human truths, all through man's history the hand has been used to portray dynamics that impact all of human society ... even in God's Word the hand is used as a symbol in 4 ways, both for man and God.


We talk about hand to hand combat:

In School we learned to raise our hands for permission to speak.

Metaphors like "handle him with kid gloves."

We wave our hands to express hello and goodbye.

We have songs like "I wanna hold your hand..."

We live sometimes "hand to foot."

We “hand” things down from one generation to another!

WE raise our hands to surrender ... perhaps this in part is the meaning for raising hands in worship!

We have hand guns, hand towels, hands off, hands down, second-hand stores, etc.


We even shake hands ... many people don't realize it but this practice started back when one man who greeted another man might reach for a hidden sword or knife and quickly and tragically end the greeting ... thus the only safe way to prove one’s good intention was to show the empty hand and grasp the empty hand of the enemy ... thus by shaking hands they guaranteed their safety and created a covenant of peace ... since most men fought right handed, the right hand became the proper hand to extend from each party!


PROP. SENT:     The Bible teaches us that the hand is a powerful symbol in at least 4 ways, a symbol of power, of a pledge, of a pardon ... and as an expression of praise!


I.   POWER SYMBOL   Ex. 17:8-15


A.   Providential      Ex. 17:8-11

1.   In Moses' case it was his hand that would hold the staff of God ... a symbol of God's power in Moses' hand!

2.   The instructions were clear ... Moses was to hold the staff of God in his hand high above the battle field and God would providentially give them the victory in battle!

3.   The message is clear here:  It was God's power in Moses' hand as it was held up before the people that would signal God's strength fighting for Israel!

4.   The symbol had real power ... for if Moses failed to hold up God's authority (the staff by hand) above the people as they fought the enemy they would not have God's help and they would lose the battle!

a.    This was not meant as some magical expression ... it was meant as a teaching tool for Israel!

b.    The lesson was for them: to know that it was GOD'S STRONG HAND THAT BROUGHT THEM VICTORY ... NOT THEIR OWN POWER AND MIGHT!


B.   Practical     Ex. 17:12-15

1.   While God's providence was wonderful ... there was one weakness in the program, MOSES!

2.   While Moses held a great place of honor as the Pastor of Israel, he still was just a man ... with all the human weaknesses of every other man.

3.   Moses simply got tired of holding up God's authority ... physically he just got tired!

a.    A few things could have happened here:

(1.    God could have replaced Moses for being too weak...

(2.    The leaders of Israel could have decided it was time for a change of leadership after all; Moses was over 80 years of age already!

(3.    They could have simply ignored the whole symbolic act altogether and concluded that it was just a superstitious thing anyways!

b.    Human weakness has to be dealt with.

4.   Their choice:

a.    They came up with a plan to help Moses help each other ... and to still honor the instructions of God to keep His authority held high!

b.    They simply plopped a rock under Moses for a chair ... and two of his faithful board members took one hand each on either side and helped hold up Moses' hands ... honoring the commands of God while still respecting God's called leader over them!

c.    This plan was so practical ... so simple, but it also honored every element of the symbol of God’s power and authority.

5.   While God's providence guaranteed the victory ... their participation was required for the actual battle to be won!


ILLUS:      The balance between God's providence and our participation is like a trapeze act.  God's providence is like the trapeze net below ... without it, failure is almost assured, but with it we are willing to be daring and accomplish things we otherwise might not have dared!  Recognition of the reality of the net of God's providence allows us the boldness to do the daring for God! – Source Unknown


6.   The frequent use in the Bible of "GOD'S HAND WAS UPON THEM" simply meant this!

7.   It was a symbol of God's power and providence!


II.  PLEDGE SYMBOL    Gen. 14:22; Ezek. 20:5-7


A.   Promise    Gen. 14:22

1.   We've all witnessed in a court of law the instructions to raise our right hand and repeat after me, "I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God!"

2.   The raising of a hand was also a symbol of pledging oneself!

3.   Here Abraham raises his hand to pledge himself to God ... not to accept the gifts of a man – not even those of an earthly king, only to acknowledge God's ownership in his life!

4.   This was considered an absolute pledge ... unbreakable for life!

5.   This was a strong statement before God ... and before man!

6.   In a court of law to lie after such a pledge would mean perjury ... punishable by serious penalties!

7.   Yet, how many times have we raised a hand and pledged to God something only to renege on it later!  In the Old Testament a man of God would die before breaking such a pledge!

a.    In Matthew 23 Jesus points out how the Pharisees had become experts at doing this.

b.    They would pledge "by the temple" or "the altar" only to fall away from the pledge, when confronted they would express the following logic:

(1.    Had they sworn by "the GOLD of the temple" ... or "the SACRIFICE on the altar," THEN it would have been binding!

(2.    Jesus' response was that our promises should be “YEA AND AMEN!” -- A pledge should be honored ... or not made!


ILLUS:      In the early 1900's the Russian Czar noticed a sentry posted for no apparent reason on the Kremlin grounds ... when he checked into it he found that in 1776 Catherine the Great had found the first flower of spring and promised to post a guard there so that it would not be trampled under foot ...130 years later that promise was still kept though no one knew why! – Source Unknown


8.   We have pledged to God by an upraised hand our life ... let's be sure to follow through on it!


B.   Personal    Ezek.  20:5-7

1.   God also swore with an upheld hand ... a pledge of His promise!

2.   God is not some distant impersonal power over the universe, His promise is personal to us!

3.   God in the Old Testament raised His hand in pledge to Israel ... He personally promised them His presence and power!

4.   Jesus in the New Testament also raised His hands on Calvary in pledge to make His salvation a personal promise ... to each who come to Him; He will in no wise cast any out!

5.   The only thing for us to do is simply to recognize His presence, recognize His person, recognize His power ... and His promise, and we are HIS!


ILLUS:      Years ago an East Coast fishing village found itself in destitution.  The townspeople decided to hold a meeting to try and resolve their complicated problems.  During the meeting a stranger walked in and several times tried to speak up ... but the small close-knit town didn't take well to outsiders and the man was cut off each time in one way or another.  They didn't want some outside stranger coming in and telling them how to solve their problems.  Finally the man left just as another townsman walked in.  The man who came late got up and asked the people, "Where did our guest go ... did he offer help, is he going to help us, why has he left so early?  One of the villagers got up and then asked, "who was that guy anyway ... we managed to keep him from speaking his mind every time?"  The latecomer trembled, "That was JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER SR ... I saw his boat dock in the harbor, he had come to offer us financial help after reading about us in the paper!"

Because they had failed to recognize the visitor in their midst they went without the desperate help ... if only they had listened ... if they had only recognized who he was!  How much more so this is true with Jesus ... HE IS IN OUR MIDST ... HOW MANY OF YOU KNOW HE IS HERE TO HELP!?" – Source Unknown


III.     PARDON SYMBOL    Lev. 16:8-10, 20-22


A.   Penalty     Lev. 16:8-9

1.   In the Old Testament a goat was brought before the people and killed -- to be a sacrifice for their sins ... death being the penalty for sins.

2.   In God's mercy they didn't have to die themselves for their sins ... a goat would die in their place!

3.   This spoke of their guilt ... a reminder of their need for forgiveness.

4.   The death of the goat reminded them of the high price of sin ... death!

5.   The hands of the Priest would be laid on the head of the goat and the sins of Israel would be transferred to the animal this way ... via the hands of the high Priest ... then they watched as death was sentenced on their sins!

a.    This is precisely the picture we have of Jesus on the cross ... our High Priest who took on Himself our sins and died for them ... our sacrificial lamb!


ILLUS:      Nikolai Berdyaev, who abandoned Marx for Christianity, insists that neither history nor theology nor the church brought him to the Christian faith, but a simple woman called only Mother Maria.  He was present at a concentration camp when the Nazis were murdering Jews in gas chambers.  One distraught mother refused to part with her baby.  When Maria saw that the officer was only interested in numbers, without a word she pushed the mother aside and quickly took her place.  This action revealed to Berdyaev the heart of Christianity -- and what atonement means. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 35.


b.    The penalty was cruel ... but so is sin!


B.   Peace!     Lev. 16:10,20-22

1.   A second goat however was kept alive and also brought before the people, this one also had hands laid on its head and all the sins of Israel were confessed on it by the laying on of hands.

2.   But this one was taken alive and led out deep into the wilderness where it would be guaranteed to have no return, it was not possible for this “scapegoat” to find its way back to them.

a.    The message was clear: this goat wasn’t so much for removing sin ... but was used to show the removing of the guilt of sin!

b.    Taking it away to never return was God's message: when He forgives, He forgets!

3.   Jesus did this with our sins ... He not only paid the price, He gives us peace by letting us know that our sins are gone.  LIKE THE KIDS’ SONG ... “GONE, GONE, GONE, GONE, YES MY SINS ARE GONE!”

4.   The hands of the high priest therefore could not only pass the sins from the people to the sacrificial animal; they could get rid of the guilt of sin also!

5.   Here is the picture of Jesus: our high priest whose hands were nailed to a cross ... not only taking our sins on Him, but removing the guilt of sin from our hearts!  SO THAT NOW WE HAVE PEACE WHO ARE IN HIM!

6.   Christ's nail printed hands remind us that we are free! ... PARDONED!

7.   It is not enough to know your sins are gone ... so is the guilt that Satan uses to keep punishing us over and over again!  LET THEM GO!


ILLUS:       Back in the middle 1800's in England there was an ugly tugboat named, 'OLD BUST ME UP!'  It had received this nick-name because of the many collisions in docking ... she had scars on her everywhere ... and the sailors and locals would come just for the entertainment to watch her bang into the dock!  She would routinely collide with other boats on the way in, ramming in to the sides of the dock ... was just terribly clumsy!  One day however as the crowd was gathered as usual she slipped into dock like a swan ... gliding carefully and smoothly into the berth straight as an arrow!  She gently came to a stop without hitting a thing!  One old seaman on dock was so amazed he called out, "Ho there, ‘Old Bust Me Up,’ what's the matter with you?"  Back from the vessel came this reply, "I'm the same old boat, but I have a new skipper on board!" – Source Unknown


8.   Once your sins are gone and with them the guilt, you can sail smoothly ... you have a new skipper on board, sin is gone ... guilt is gone!   Even "OLD BUST ME UP" could make it with a new skipper!


IV.  PRAISE SYMBOL    1 Tim. 2:8


A.   Principle   1 Tim. 2:8

1.   Lifting up holy hands was a sign of both surrender and acknowledgement!

a.    Like those who surrender during any war!

b.    It is a universal sign of surrender!

2.   The idea is not to be ashamed to surrender our life to God!

3.   The idea clearly marks out in a physical way our recognition that God is Lord!

a.    It is an expression of praise of God's Lordship.

b.    It is an expression of our submission to that Lordship!

4.   The idea is simple:  even the physical act of lifting up hands creates a powerful symbolic gesture that helps to bring to reality a great spiritual dynamic!

5.   Our hands are used in symbolic ways to praise in many ways:

a.    We clap our hands in celebration for man and God.

b.    We shake hands as a symbol of friendship.

c.    We wave our hands as symbols of hello and goodbye.

d.    We hold hands as a symbol of unity.

e.    We "slap 5" as a victory symbol.

f.     We raise our hand to get attention.



B.   Pronouncement

1.   The symbol also speaks for us ... pronouncing to others the truths behind our actions!

2.   Thus another way to witness for Christ!

3.   Here is why we "lay hands" on people for prayer ... to convey the truths of God's power and authority ... and of our submission to His Lordship, etc.  There isn’t anything magical or supernatural about "laying on of hands," it is however a powerful symbol of God’s power when someone has hands laid on them, not of man’s power.


CONCLUSION:   The hand is a symbol of God's relationship to man ... and our relationship to Him!  Instead of fighting with Him, why not join hands with Him!  Those who walk with God hand in hand will never lose their way!