Have you reflected on how versatile your hands are? A heavy equipment operator moves his hands on the hydraulic controls and shifts tons of earth and crushed rock. A surgeon operating with a 40 power binocular microscope, moves his hands to control a scalpel that removes a cataract and replaces it with a clear lens. Someone signs a church service, using her hands so that a hearing impaired person can worship with the congregation. A Braille reader runs her fingers over little bumps, and is able to read. A nurse promotes healing, not only by administering medication, but by reaching out and touching a patient. You men who are married, do you remember the first time you held hands with the woman who is now your wife? (I hope you still do!)
Now think of God’s hands, hands stretched out to you, offering love, mercy, and grace, offering, above all, the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you object that God is Spirit? He is, but the Bible also tells you he has hands–though not in the bodily sense that you do. In Romans 10:21, Paul, quoting Isaiah 65:2 tells you that God stretches out his hands all day long to a disobedient and contrary people.
Outstretched hands communicate. God’s outstretched hands are not an anthropomorphism (attributing human characteristics to an object). Rather, the imagery works because you are made in the image of God. Your God stretched out his mighty right arm to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt. And he uses his hands to call you to himself.
As Matthew Henry points out in commenting on this passage, “The patience of God towards provoking sinners is admirable. He waits to be gracious. The time of God’s patience is here called a day, lightsome as a day and fit for work and business, but limited as a day, and a night at the end of it. He bears long, but he will not bear always.”
Other religions do not have a god that is wounded. But the God of Scripture, in the person of Jesus Christ, is wounded. And he holds out those wounded hands, calling you to trust in him.
(in preparation for a message on May 15, 2011)