The Invisible Hand of God

All around us in creation, we can see God’s hand, and His awesome handiwork. One ancient psalmist wrote: “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (102:25). In another psalm, the author knew that his existence came from God’s hand: “Your hands have made me and fashioned me” (119:73). It is also from God’s hands that all blessings flow: “You open your hand, they are filled with good” (Psalm 104:28). “You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15).

And no matter where we are, or where we go, “Your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:10). When we are in trouble, we can cry out to God: “Stretch out your hand from above; rescue me and deliver me” (Psalm 144:7). When I read all these passages from the Psalms, I feel so wonderfully safe and secure in God’s hand, for nothing in heaven above, or on earth below is able to snatch me out of the loving, wise and powerful hands of my Father and Saviour (cf. John 10:28-29). 

Often, as we live out our lives, we can see the hand of God, giving and guiding, protecting and preserving. And in those times, we sing about the hands of our God. “All I have needed Thy hand has provided/ Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me” (Hymn 66). “Praise to the Lord, who with marvellous wisdom has made you, blessed you with health, and with loving hand guided and stayed you” (Hymn 78).

But at times it might be hard to sing these words. At times it might appear as though God has withdrawn His hands from us and let go of us. At times we might feel as if our life is drifting aimlessly, lacking direction. Or worse! At times, we might feel as though the powers of darkness have taken hold of our lives, bringing upon us much trouble, grief and sadness. At times we wonder, “Where are the hands of God?” 

Sometimes God’s hands are invisible—present but unseen.

Where were the loving, providing, guiding and protective hands of God when Job lost his wealth, his children, and his health? It appears the devil had gotten hands on Job, making his life bitter and loathsome. But God’s hands were directing events so that Job might gain a far deeper understanding of God, and might glorify God even more.

Where were the providential hands of God when Joseph’s brothers sold him to the Ishmaelite traders, who in turn sold him to Potiphar, who in turn sent him to prison? God’s hands were directing affairs so that Joseph would eventually be elevated to vice-regent in Egypt. Joseph’s personal grief would open the way for him to become a blessing for the people of Israel. 

Where were the loving, providing, guiding and protective hands of God when Naomi lost her husband, and both of her two sons? God’s hands were there, directing events so that His covenant faithfulness to, and His redemption of this family might become a divine foreshadow of God’s faithfulness to and redemption of His people through the coming Christ. 

For both Joseph and Naomi, God’s hands were invisible—at least for a time. Only in hindsight could they look back and see how God’s hand was lovingly directing their lives for good. 

David also experienced times when he felt that God had withdrawn His hands from him, that he was no longer ‘upheld’ by God’s hands. In Psalm 22, David cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? Why are you so far from helping Me? 

At times in his life, David felt the hands of others against him. In Psalm 31, David twice refers to the hands of his enemies. In verse 8, he gives thanks to God because God “had not delivered [him] up into the hand of the enemy.” And in verse 15 David continued to pray that God would “…deliver [him] from the hand of [his] enemies.” Yes, the powerful, hateful hands of David’s enemies were against him, and David experienced grievous troubles in his life. His soul was in distress (v. 7). He wept while he prayed, and he wasted away, both physically and spiritually (vv. 9-10). David’s enemies mocked and scorned him, and they schemed together to take his life from him (v. 13). Yes, David could feel the hand of his enemies that were against him. 

But in contrast to what David felt in Psalm 22, where he did not feel God’s hands holding on to him, David speaks so assuredly in Psalm 31 of the presence of God’s hands. Twice he refers to God’s hands.  In verse 5 he prayed: “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.” David entrusted His life into the safekeeping of God’s all-powerful hands, because He knew God’s hands were moved by God’s heart that was perfect in love, and by God’s mind that was perfect in wisdom. David’s life could not find a more safe and secure place than in God’s hands. Many years later, Christ would take these words upon his own lips, when He gave up His life on Golgotha’s cross to secure our redemption. And it is the Christ’s out-stretched arms on Golgotha’s cross that enable the Father’s hands to embrace us. 

David makes a second reference to God’s hands in verse 15 where he said, “My times are in your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.”  What a beautiful confession: “My times are in your hand.” In the book of Ecclesiastes, the preacher wrote about the varied times of our lives. “There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to love and a time to hate, a time of war and a time of peace.” In Psalm 31, David says that the times of his life are in God’s hands. The changing seasons of one’s life do not come by chance, but from the powerful, loving and wise hands of God. In the difficult times of his life, David knows that it is to His heavenly Father that he must turn as he patiently waits for the season of his life to change. And it would surely change! For the Lord had redeemed David. God promised David, and God promises us glorious future. 

If you, dear brother or sister, find yourself in difficult times, do not lose heart! God has not forsaken you. That is certain and sure, because God has forsaken His Son, our Saviour, instead of forsaking us. Think of those beautiful words in our Form for Lord’s Supper: “He was forsaken by God, that we might never be forsaken.” Nothing in heaven above or on earth below can snatch us out of the hands of our Father. No matter where we are, or where we go, “Your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:10). Though you might feel very abandoned and insecure, you are neither. With the same faith as David, commit yourself into the hands of the God of your redemption. Confidently pray the words of Asaph: “I am continually with you; you hold me by my right hand” (Psalm 73:23). Cling to the knowledge that the both the good and the bad times of your life are in God’s invisible hands.

-Rev Art Van Delden

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