The Hands of God

March 12, 2017

We always have the notion that falling into the hands of God is the best place we can find ourselves in. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:6 that if we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hands, he will exalt us in due time. Also, through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10). These words are comforting to one that is struggling in life. However, we are also told in Hebrews 10:31, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” This seems to contradict everything that we know about God – loving, caring, gracious, merciful and so on.

In saying that it is dreadful to fall into the hands of the living God, the premise of the apostle Paul was that “if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (Heb. 10:26-27). To the sinners, it is indeed a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Because God is omniscient, they cannot pretend to have faith in him when they do not. The fact is the Lord knows exactly what is in their mind. They too cannot hide their wickedness from the Lord because he is omnipresent. He sees everything they do even if they do so behind closed doors or in the privacy of their own bedrooms. God is also omnipotent – all powerful. He can destroy not only the body but can even throw the soul into hell. These are good reasons for the wicked to dread God.

It is in deliberately sinning against the Lord that makes someone an enemy of God. Needless to say, the enemies of God should dread his hands. While God is gracious and compassionate, he is also just. The justice of God demands that sin be dealt with accordingly. And while God hate sin, we need not clean ourselves first before we can avail of his grace and mercies. It is enough that we humble ourselves before him and acknowledged our sins. The prophet Daniel made this clear when he prayed, “O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:8-9). In his particular case, Daniel pleaded for mercy on behalf of Israel, and God showed them mercy.

When King David sinned against the Lord by ordering that a census be done throughout Israel, he was presented with three choices of punishment. The first was three years of famine, the second was three months of fleeing before his enemies and the third was three days of plague. The first two choices would require David to fall in the hands of men but the last one would require him to fall in the hands of God. While he fully understood that it was a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, he chose it and justified it with these words, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men” (2 Samuel 24:14). For the choice he made, seventy thousand Israelites died. It might have seemed to be the wrong choice because of the number of people who died, but there could have been more suffering and casualties had he chosen any of the other two – falling into the hands of men.

In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, Jesus emphasized how unmerciful men can be. In this parable, a servant who owed his master ten thousand talents was forgiven because he pleaded before his master saying, “Be patient with me, I will pay back everything” (Matt. 18:26). His debt was cancelled and he was set free. But when this same servant went away, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred denarii.  He grabbed him and began to choke him, demanding payment. Since the other servant could not pay, he was thrown into prison despite him pleading, “Be patient with me, I will pay back everything.” This servant quickly forgot that he himself was forgiven when he pleaded for mercy. It would have been his chance to show compassion to his fellow servant, just as the master had done for him, but did not. Because of his unforgiving attitude, he himself was eventually thrown into prison by the master who had forgiven him earlier. It can be gleaned from this parable that it is indeed better to fall into the hands of God. To the wicked and unbelievers, those hands are dreadful if they refuse to repent, but to the humble who come pleading for his mercy, those same hands are gracious and compassionate. Let us heed the admonition of the apostle Peter. He said, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). Glory to God!