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Keeping Yourself Pure (Part 3 Making a Covenant With Your Hands)
Although this article is in a series, it is a Complete study on its own. (3 of 4 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
The hands speak volumes of what is in the heart. I speak, of course, of the actions one takes with one's hands, the efforts made at making what is in the heart come to fruition. Do the works of your hands tell a story of a person that loves the Lord God with all their mind, and heart and soul or do they build a little kingdom and a world where you will be the supreme lord and master? This is the third article in a series of four that is about Christian behavior and purity before a holy God.
In the first article, we learned how the early patriarch Job had decided that in order to retain his integrity and purity before his God, he would make a covenant, an agreement between his heart of integrity and his eyes. We learned of this agreement made before God and how it draws a boundary for behavior. When a person can see a clearly defined boundary, it reminds him of his weakness, it can help give him pause to think, to find a way of escape. God promises to give us a way of escape but when we have a boundary drawn, we have a screaming stop sign that reminds us that to proceed any further will be to our hurt. Job knew he had a tendency to look at the young maidens and he made a covenant with his eyes to help draw a boundary for them so that he never looked at them.
The second in this series dealt with the mouth and we were reminded of the tongue, how it can be used for both good and for bad, for both life and death. We also spoke of how the mouth is a gateway into the body. The things put into it do matter. Not that anything that goes into the body through the mouth defiles the body, but it can be a source of sin if we don't listen to God's leading or if we over-consume because of our lusts. The critical point of that article was, we are to only allow our mouth to be used for God's will. Nothing comes out that is not God's will and nothing goes in that is not God's will.
In this, the third of the series, we will deal with the hands and the significance of the hands in Scripture, then we'll consider if we need an agreement with our hands as Job did with his eyes.
Jesus was 33 years old when Roman guards marched Him down the path that led to the cross. It was called the Via Dolorosa, translated the "Way of Suffering." The crowds were all around and screaming and jeering, it was a sport you see. Spain has its bull-fighting and the American continent has its dog and cock fighting in some hideaway corner with its screaming fans. This had become a popular blood-sport. Bets were flying, people all wanting to see the torture and how long this man would take to finally meet His end. During this time there was no TV, no movies, no entertainment to speak of for the average citizen, but built into the criminal justice system was a way for the masses to get a little diversion into their otherwise repetitive lives. Most of the crowd wasn't in it to see "justice" as were some of the misguided and unbelieving officials present but were caught up in the social and community activity at hand. It was somewhat the same response phenomenon as when Jesus entered into Jerusalem on the donkey's colt. First one believer and then another who realized who this Man was, began putting down clothing and palm branches. It was the custom for a King coming in peace to enter a city this way and it was honoring that King to not let His animal's hooves touch the ground. So more and more people joined in the welcome and soon all the people were shouting, "Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." To be fair, there probably was a significant number who did it because they believed to some degree, but most there were those caught up in the hysteria that formed. Now those entertained masses were screaming "crucify Him" and every other ugly thing that could be hurled in His direction. They were, in effect, "cheering on the home team." The trail of blood on the street and smell of blood in the air signaled the beginning of the event for the crowd. They all lined the streets, their fists and hands in the air, oaths flying from their lips, hate in their collective voice. All that was missing was Howard Cosell or Frank Gifford calling a play-by-play or a gate and person at the window selling tickets to "the big game."
On the other side of this event, Jesus had borne the weight of living a life of poverty, gone through the death of a parent (His dad Joseph), been rejected by most of His own family and town, betrayed by one of his very best friends, and now was being led away to pay for crimes He did not commit. His blood was oozing, and from many places on his body flowing, leaving a trail of slippery red dust behind Him, every inch of it redeeming mankind. The Romans were expert at laying on the cat-o-nine-tails. Each stroke took flesh but missed vital arteries and veins. They would not want an unfair advantage to their game, namely, for Him to bleed to death before He could suffer for a good while on the cross. The soldiers had bets to win you see. Jesus knew all this. He was omniscient and had it written in prophecy that they would be at His feet as He hung there, betting for His clothes among other things. (Ps. 22:18) The blood loss was sapping His strength, though, so a black man of the country of Cyrene was ordered by the Roman guard to carry the cross for Him. We have no idea if this Jew, come to Jerusalem for the Passover was a believer in the Christ that he was ordered to assist, but we know he watched from the noisy crowd and then rubbed [bloody] shoulders with the King of Glory. I wonder if he had raised his hand in hate and then was ordered to put that same hand to the rough wood of the cross that would bear the Savior of the World. If that was the case, what a change of activity for a pair of hands to go through!
The arms of Jesus were placed at a 90-degree angle on the cross and then a 7-inch iron nail was driven into his wrist bones where nerves would be continuously inflamed and irritated. Then a 9 to 11-inch nail was driven into His feet, one on top of the other, making use of the other major nerves so that the nerves would send an endless "electric shock" racing through His body. The circuit would be complete at every breath as He lifted Himself by the hands and feet to take in air. This was how criminals were dealt with in the days of the Romans. It was then and still is, the worst way to die ever devised. It was an evolution from the old stick in the butt that was used for centuries to impale enemies, the stake gradually piercing into a victim's body by gravity until it hit the heart. But sinning humans have an endless capacity for devising even more evil ways to hurt, torture, and kill, so they devised the crucifixion that lasted sometimes up to a week instead of a few hours from impaling. It took into account the circulatory system and the nerve networks of the body and kinetics to allow the body to raise and lower on the cross so that this Criminal could breathe. Only thing was, He was not a criminal. He was sinless and put Himself into this situation for what He thought was a good reason. YOU.
"For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet." (Psalms 22:16)
As well as His life's blood to pay for our sin, Jesus gave His whole body, including His hands and the deeds He accomplished with them as our example. This is not just an interesting piece of history, it is there to determine your future; for its eternal happiness, or for its eternal sorrow. It is what Jesus did with His blood and with His hands that will affect you because either you embrace those blood-soaked, nail-pierced hands or you will reject them. You can not avoid them nor disregard them as if they are a non-factor in your life. To disregard them is to reject them (like it or not). He did it for you. Was His effort and all of this for nothing in your case? Will He have gone through all of this for you and when you see Him you say:
"I didn't ask Him to do anything for me."
When you see the Savior that loved you will you say,
"No I don't believe I have to accept anything," or
"I'm not ready to change my life." or
"I'm not convinced it is necessary, I'm fine the way I am." or
"Don't mess with my life." etc. No matter what you say to this offer of Christ's to reject it, the fact is Hands are still pierced for you and remain so forever.
Lift up Holy Hands
Some of you reading this have embraced those Hands and what they did. Speaking to those who have seen the significance of this event for them, and received Christ, are you lifting up "holy hands" to God? (1 Tim. 2:8) Have you ever heard the term, "lifting up hands to God?" It isn't just a posture of worship, it isn't just a choice of gesture. It signifies something of greater meaning to the believer. It is the believer identifying with Christ and then offering his or her total being to Him, starting with the works of their hands.
There is a very interesting passage of Scripture in Galatians 6:15-18. In it, Paul is explaining that the new believers, most of which were Jewish, began to expect all Gentile believers to get circumcised in the Jewish tradition. The physical sign of cutting off of the male foreskin was a covenant between Israel and God that set them apart as God's people. In the Jewish mindset, it was a hard adjustment to allow non-circumcised people to also be the chosen of God. But the Bible does say all in the church who are born-again believers are the chosen of God. Jewish people were always arguing with the apostle and imagining all sorts of things about him and his beliefs regarding who was acceptable and why. So finally Paul, after having explained to them over and over that circumcision was a matter of faith and that believers were "circumcised in the heart" said, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor non-circumcision avails anything, but a new creation [being born-again]. And as many as walk according to this rule [feeling like they must be circumcised] peace and mercy be upon them [it is okay for them to do, not necessary, but is okay], and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."
Did that mean that somehow he had holes through his wrists and feet and a gaping spear hole in his side? No, like a wise teacher I know always says, "Text without context is pretext." The context of this shows that it is the manner of life, their Christian walk, that is being talked about here. It's not important if the Gentile believers became circumcised because it is a matter of living as a "new creation." It concerns the works of their hands.
So let us ponder what the "marks of the Lord" might mean. There was definitely marks in the Lord's feet and if this is talking about a Christian walk, then wherever the apostle's feet took him would be directed by the Lord. His walk and manner of life would glorify the Lord Jesus everywhere his feet took him and at all times.
How about his side? Well, think what purpose the soldier had for piercing Him with the spear in the first place. He was determining that the Lord Jesus was indeed dead so that they didn't have to break His legs ("crucifraction"), to bring on immediate death from compression of the lungs. Remember, on the cross a person must lift themselves up to take a breath. If the legs were broken the person could not lift themselves and thus would suffocate in a matter of a few minutes. They broke the legs of the other two crucified with Him but when they saw Jesus was already dead, the soldier just to be sure, thrust in his spear between the ribs and up into the heart. Out came "water and blood" which showed everyone that the heart had ruptured and its contents were in the sac around the heart. The blood had been pooling long enough to separate into red cells and serum, making it look like water and blood. The heart was indeed "broken" as Scripture had foretold.
"Reproach has broken My heart, and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity but there was none; and for comforters but I found none." (Ps. 69:20)
So now back to Paul. how did he bear that mark? Did he walk around having a gaping hole in his side, clear up to his heart? no Paul identified with Jesus and what He did with His heart. He reckoned that every beat of his heart was a life given him, and thus an opportunity to spread the gospel of the Lord Jesus. His whole heart beat for God.
Now on to the hands, the point and theme of this whole article. This is the favorite verse of Roman Catholics to imagine that St. Paul had scars or even holes in his hands as marks of the Lord. But I don't believe that those marks were any more visible than the others. Think about it, if he was walking around with piercings including one that people could see went straight into the chest cavity, it would be common knowledge and Paul's greatest talking point for beginning any gospel presentation. Paul would not have had to inform them of this. It was not literal but a covenant he made with his God. It was symbolic, as we can see from the context. His hands, everything that his hands did, all that they accomplished, was work the Lord Himself directed through His Holy Spirit.
Why should Paul identify with Jesus in this manner? The better question is: Why don't we all feel that we bear the marks of the Lord Jesus as Paul did? Paul was commissioned to teach and preach. His teachings showed us all how we are to serve and worship and walk in this life. So look at how Paul related to his Lord, why he felt he bore those marks, and then consider how you yourself identify with your Lord.
Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of [remembering and identifying with] the blood of Jesus Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of [remembering and identifying with] the body of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:16)
Crucified with Christ...Isn't that interesting? No doubt Paul identified with this image that was burned into his mind from each time he witnessed it. In his day the Romans crucified as well as casting many to the lions for amusement. He had seen, I'm sure, people hanging by their hands and feet between heaven and earth and realized (after his conversion) that God had put on human flesh, human hands and human feet then had given those very hands and feet for Paul's salvation. What had Paul given? Nothing. Paul was "breathing threatenings and slaughter" against Christians for years after Jesus died for him. Paul remembered the stonings he authorized, maybe even saw his own hands take part in crucifixions from time to time. But Jesus is a loving God. He forced him to hear the answer to a question that Paul probably mulled over in his mind a thousand times. What if the rumors of the Messiah I've heard are true? If Jesus Christ was the Messiah, then what would I do?
On the road to Damascus Jesus met him and got his attention by striking him blind. Sometimes the only way someone can see is to take away every distraction. Jesus asked him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" So now that he knew Jesus was the Messiah what would he do?
Jesus sent an answer by Ananias to Paul to help him get his sight back, "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the gentiles, and kings, and children of Israel: for I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:15-16)
When he finally saw that he was persecuting the very Messiah that he had waited for, he received Christ as Savior and then gave himself to the Lord God. God had made him into a "holy vessel" and he lifted up holy hands to Jesus.
We have to realize that Paul was not the only chosen vessel, we all of the church are chosen. Jesus did not die just for Paul, He died for us all. We all need to lift up holy hands to the Lord, to give our whole beings for Him to work His will in this world. We as Gentile grafted-in children of Abraham will rejoice at a promise that God will work His will in us in this world. We will not be ashamed because we partook in a work of God which changed the world.
"Jacob shall not now be ashamed, nor shall his face grow pale; but when he sees his children [including his grafted-in gentile children], the work of My in his midst, they will hallow My Name, And hallow the holy One of Jacob, and fear the God of Israel. Those also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, and those who complained will learn doctrine." (Isaiah 29:23-24)
So believer, do you feel as Paul felt, that his life was a gift and that each moment was a moment to do something for God? or do you live your life as your flesh dictates and play church? Do you take seriously, the blood that the Lord spilled for you and the body that was broken for you? or do you think about it only when hearing the preacher talk about it at church? If you are just now waking up and realizing you have been less than appreciative for your salvation, maybe it's time you did something to correct this situation.
"The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh." (Ecclesiastes 4:5)
Job made a covenant that he would stand pure before a Holy God. His sin nature could be his undoing so he made a covenant with his eyes. He paid special attention to them so that he would use his eyes only to glorify his God. Paul, so grateful for his salvation and what was paid for him, dedicated all of the rest of his life, every breath, every step he took, and every work of his hands to the Lord his God. Then the apostle covenanted before God so that his body, especially his feet, his heart, and his hands, identified with the Lord Jesus Christ as if he was crucified with Him. These two men covenanted before God for these courses of action.
So let me ask you, as a servant of the Most High God, what is your weakest point which causes you to sin, to become impure before the Lord? Is it your hands? Does your mind devise things to do for the Lord and then your hands find all kinds of things to do just for yourself? Is the thing you wish to do with your life merely to please yourself? Let me ask you, what do you do with your hands? What work have they done for God? Since your hands symbolize the works you do and are an indicator of who your master is, what do you accomplish with your life and for whom?
Your answer may be, "Everything I do is for myself, I serve no one." A response like that shows plainly that God is not served in your life. If God is not served, then you serve the enemy of God, Satan, and along with him his two allies, the world, and the flesh.
"Their webs will not become garments, nor will they cover themselves with their works; their works are the works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths." (Isaiah 59:6-7)
Aren't you tired of living with an empty life and struggling against the God who saved you? Aren't you finding a hole in your emotions that needs to be filled with the joy of the Lord?
"And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." (Romans 6:13)
If you want to fill that void and don't know how then start by talking to God:
Dear Lord Jesus, I appreciate the sacrifice You made for me, and the life You lived, to give me an example of what I must do. You gave me life and now I want to live that life for You. I ask the Holy Spirit to direct my hands and to be there for You to work Your miracles in the world around me. I will begin to reckon myself dead, crucified with Christ so that You may live through me. I give You all of me to do with as You will, starting with my hands. Thank You, Lord. I pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.
"The faithful man has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; every man hunts his brother with a net. That they may successfully do evil with both hands - The prince asks for gifts, the judge seeks a bribe, and the great man utters his evil desire; so they scheme together. The best of them is like a brier; the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge; the day of your watchman and your punishment comes; now shall be their perplexity." (Micah 7:2-4)
Dear Reader, if you find that you have a hole in your soul and have not called on Jesus to fill that hole, then you need to think about this, it's important because life is not forever on this earth. The Bible verse above shows that every person sins. It is in our genes to sin passed down from our sinning parent Adam.
"Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
But Jesus came and bled on that old rugged cross to save you and pay for those sins by taking the punishment for you. Salvation is there for the taking, and all you have to do is ask to receive it. Just call out to Him in prayer realizing you are a sinner and can't save yourself and in faith fall into the hands of the living God trusting Him to hold you up. He is the only way of salvation.
Pray this: Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I can't save myself. Life is short and I want to be with You in heaven. I know my sin will keep me from coming to You after I die so please forgive me of my sin and save me. I believe that You came to earth and were killed and buried and rose again from the dead and I call to You in faith so I can be your child and glorify You with the works of my hands. I pray this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.
Others in this series of independent articles: