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Evangel Tabernacle | October 21, 2018

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I AM The One Who Holds You

I AM The One Who Holds You

| On 22, May 2018

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 41:10-13; Psalms 139:10; Isaiah 49:14-16

‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.’

Psalms 139:10

‘Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.’

Isaiah 49:14-16

‘But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.’

The recurring phrase in these three portions of scriptures we have just read is ‘the right hand of the LORD’.

Thomas Dorsey was honored as ‘The Father of Gospel Music’ and his music is loved around the world. But the journey to this title was a difficult one. Thomas loved music at a young age and enrolled in music education at the Chicago College of Composition and Arranging. After college he frequented the jazz clubs and gained quite a reputation as the very talented ‘George Tom’. In 1921 at the age of 22 Thomas gave his life to Jesus. Almost immediately the left the Jazz Club and began writing Gospel Music. It was 3 long years before anyone started to notice. Little by little his reputation grew, not only as a songwriter but as a church music director. In 1932 while the now Reverend Dorsey was leading a church service, a man came to the platform and handed him a telegram – his wife had just died in childbirth. Within 24 hours his newborn baby died also. Thomas quickly spiraled downward into the depth of despair, doubting the goodness of God and determining never to write another hymn. A week after that horrible, life changing day, Thomas was deep into his grief, sitting alone at a piano, in a friend’s music room. Into the room came a peace such as he had never known before. As that peace enveloped him, Thomas felt the urge to play the piano. His fingers found a familiar melody and the words came. The vocabulary ‘Precious Lord, Take My hand’ began to well up from his heart and to spill out of his mouth. God had given him a song that would not only lift him from despair, but would also change the course of his music career. Precious Lord, Take My Hand has been translated into more than 40 languages and has been sung by some of the biggest names in Gospel Music.

We are all familiar with this song

Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Lead me On, Let me Stand
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn
Through the Storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light

In the Passage of Scriptures found in Isaiah 41, the Prophet tells the people that their social and economical trials will be uneasy. He assures them though that God has no intentions of abandoning them. God promises to confound their enemies and defeat them, and though their wall will be rocky and difficult they are assured of safe passage, because God promises to take them by the hand and lead them every step of the way.

One of the joys of being with kids is holding their hands. I find it beautiful, scenic and heartwarming to hold a little girl’s hand and walk alongside her. We do it to keep them safe while crossing the street, or to keep them from getting lost in a crowd. And whenever they stumble and lose their footing, we grab their little hands tighter to keep them from falling. A minister was walking behind a family at the beautiful Lake Michigan enjoying the scenic view. The waves of Lake Michigan were high and splashing onto the pier as he continued following that young family to the lighthouse. Then he overheard the young girl say to her father: ‘Daddy, please walk alongside me and hold my hand at this scary part.’ That is what God does for us. The hand is regarded as the instrument of instruments in the bible. So when God uses his hand, He is actually using the instrument of instruments to hold us. God squeezed our hands and reassured us that given the judgment of God, the wicked do not really prosper. True prosperity is found in the fact that God is always with us; He holds me by the right hand.’ And just for good measure, God reminded us that He would always guide us through life and ultimately welcome us home to heaven.

Life is like a road. We travel it daily and must consider whatever route or direction we take. Robert has to drive practically every week from Iloilo to Antique for work. The road to Antique lately has not been a smooth one. Because of the road construction, especially at Tigbauan and Miagao, drivers have to track slowly because most roads have become one lane. At times vehicles are diverted from the main road and had to maneuver, rough sandy or muddy road at certain places. This week Robert travelled to Roxas City instead. This time, the road is good, clear and easy to travel. As we sojourn in life, just in a regular highways and roads inevitably there are stones and cracks that trip us up on the sidewalks of life. Also as we sojourn in life, just as in the regular highways and roads, we must prepare for the bumps and detours we may encounter. I have found that when travelling the meandering (twisty) paths that life has in store for us, it is best to let the Lord do the driving especially when the road is rough. Whether it is family, business, personal, or community affairs, experience has taught us that when the highways of life become coarse and abrasive we should allow God to do all the steering. It doesn’t requires a lot to hold on when the going is easy, but when times get difficult, when the going get rough, when the going gets tough, a steadier hand is required.

Looking at the passage of scripture, I have often wondered why the right hand is mentioned at least 3 times in these verses that we have just read. What is the relevance of it? Why not the left hand, or just HAND in general? God can say, I will hold thy hand. As I began doing some research, I noticed the two words “right” and “hand” together are mentioned at least 132 times in the Holy Bible; and, from what I could tell, these verses show us four different purposes/meanings for the “right hand.”

1. In some verses, it is literally used as the right hand or the right side of the body. An example is seen in Genesis 48:18 – And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the first-born. Place your right hand on his head.” The right hand or the right side is considered the most noble, and the instrument of conveying the highest dignities. Even in heavens the right hand or the right side of God is the place of most exalted dignity. As Jacob places Ephraim before Manasseh, God, using his right hand, places you before others. God places Ephraim first before the list of generation and the list of descendants. God places him first in allotment, in blessings. We can say that God’s right hand places on us give us nobility, convey the highest dignities upon us, and put us before others, first among our generation and above the list of our descendants. You have to recognize that the right hand of the Lord is placed upon you.

2. It is also referred to as a direction. It is a symbol of action. Typically, the right hand refers to the South. The left hand refers to the North. Numbers 22:26 – And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. It simply means that God is directing your life. God is acting on your life. Pastor Lily was conducting a SOZO session with a brother in Christ and I was there taking down notes. In the midst of the SOZO the brother shared that in the most difficult part of his life, he felt that God was not around and He was alone. Then Pastor Lily allowed him to close his eyes and wait for what God has to say during the most difficult moment of his life. This incident took place even before He came to know Jesus. In the midst of SOZO he was given a picture of Jesus being actually there at that moment. Jesus was collecting papers. The meaning was Jesus was arranging his papers, his life when he was at the lowest point in his life. He saw that Jesus was there, rearranging his life, directing his life, acting on his life. So the right hand means Jesus is directing your life, acting on your life. He is the author and finisher of your life.

3. Another meaning is a location of honor. Hebrews 12:2 – looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Today Jesus has put you in a position of honor. He has made you to sit in heavenly places. No power of darkness or evil spirit or wicked spirit can harm you. When Abraham passed away at the age of 175, Isaac was left alone. But God did not forget Isaac even though Abraham is no more around. God starts speaking to Isaac almost immediately when his father passed away. In Genesis 26:2-4, ‘And the Lord appeared unto him and said, Go not down into Egypt, dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee, for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father: And I will make thy seed to multiply as the starts of heaven and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.’

Listen carefully. God has sworn to bless Abraham. Therefore when Abraham passed away, God kept his promised by taking care of Isaac. He was with Isaac, protecting Him, appearing to Him and promising to bless Him as He has blessed Abraham. As God cannot forget Isaac because of Abraham, God cannot forget us because of Jesus Christ. God has made Jesus to be seated at the right hand of the Father. Jesus said all that the Father has give him, He gives it to us. Yes, he asked us to go into the world and preach the Gospel but he said the same thing that God said to Isaac; ‘Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ He has made us to sit in heavenly places and He has given us gifts. God has put us in a position of honor. As he has promised to be with Isaac because of Abraham, God has promised to be with us because of Jesus.

4. The last meaning refers to giving help/strength where needed. Psalm 18:35 – You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; your right hand has held me up, your gentleness has made me great. Vicky was sharing her testimony. From that testimony she realized how much God loves us. God even takes notes of little things she wished for. She was sharing that Winston and Genevive and the two children has gone for a holiday. And she has a maid to keep her company. But the maid also wanted to leave for Palawan for a church retreat with another church. She agree to it. But in the back of her mind, she realize she will be kind of being alone in the big house. She isn’t afraid. It is just that she is alone and having a maid for company would be a good thing. But since the maid wanted so much to go to Palawan, she acceded to her request. Then just on the day when the maid was supposed to leave for Palawan, the father of the maid called and refused to let her go alone to Palawan. So the maid had to stay behind and keep her company. Then God showed Vicky that even with this small desire, God knows Vicky’s thoughts and grant her the desire of her heart that the maid stayed behind to keep her company. She realized how much God loves her. The right hand means God is giving help and strength when needed.

In most of the meanings listed above, the right hand (or right side) is considered to be a synonym for goodness. That means, “the right hand” and “goodness” fall in the same defining category. Even if you look at the Old English word for “right,” you will see the word “riht,” which means: just, good, fair, proper, fitting, straight. So when God says his right hand will be with you, it means the goodness of the Lord will be with you. He will let the goodness of the LORD pass over you. Viewed generally, it is benevolence; as exercised with respect to the miseries of his creatures. It is mercy, pity, compassion and in the case of the impenitent sinners, long suffering patience.

So, does this mean the left hand (or left side) is evil and we shouldn’t use it? Of course not! The literal left hand/side of a person is not evil. I know some wonderful, Christian people who are left-handed! I myself am left handed. During the bonding time with the staff and LAT at Bucari, I was invited to play badminton with Cheng Lao. And some of the people were surprised that I was holding the racket with my left hand. I am left handed. But, figuratively speaking, most verses in the Bible consider the “right side” to be good and proper, and the left to be weak or foolish. More often than not, it is a matter of definition, not literal location.

Focusing specifically on Isaiah 41:13, it falls into number 4 listed above. According to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Isaiah 41:10-20 was meant to be an encouragement to the people of Israel. Verse 13 is specifically “a promise that God will strengthen their hands (i.e. will help them). He will take us by the hand as our guide, to lead us in our way, will help us up when we are fallen or prevent our falls; when we are weak he will hold us up–wavering, he will fix us, trembling, he will encourage us–and so hold us by the right hand.”

In understanding Isaiah 49:14-16 we need to comprehend the mindset of the people of Israel. They are in exile, and are an imprisoned people. When glad tiding of deliverance is preached, they dare not believe and instead lament pitifully that Jehovah has forsaken and forgotten them. YHWH declares He cannot forget Israel because He has graven them upon both palms of His hands. This metaphor is derived from the contemporary custom of tattooing. The image means that God keeps Israel in everlasting remembrance, for whichever hand He lifts; He sees the name of His people.

Now with all the attributes that I have mentioned, who has the privilege of the right hand of the LORD upon them? This message is for those people who are focusing on the Lord and doing His will as we live our everyday lives – because He is always there for us, holding our hands, helping us, guiding us, and giving us strength along the way.

The perfect example of such person is Abraham. This is exactly what God was doing when dealing with Abraham. He told Abraham to leave literally and physically the tradition of his household and follow God. God will enter into a covenant with Abraham that he will bless Abraham and curse those who go against Abraham. Abraham on the other hand will constantly be focusing on God, doing the will of God as he lives his everyday life. What is Abraham like? Melchizedek called him the servant of the Most High God. God is not Abraham’s God on a Sunday service. But everyday he walks in the will of God. What about Abraham’s children. Genesis 18:19 says ‘I will single him out so that he directs his sons and their families to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. Then I will do for Abraham all that I have promised’. Abraham is a pious man. Abraham will command his children with their families to keep the way of the LORD; that is, the religion of Jehovah. They will be people that are just and execute justice. That means they are intelligent and moral being whose lives harmonize with the divine law. When God says ‘I know him’; it means that who Abraham is; a holy good man. God will give Abraham opportunity to intercede for others, especially his household. Abraham prayed for Abimelech, intercede for Lot, fought a victorious battle for Lot. But Abraham is a man of like passion like us; he tells lies when his life is in danger. He laughs at the impossible promises of God. But all in all, he believes God and was focused on God in his whole life and doing the will of God in his everyday life.

God is always looking for someone that is willing to focus on YHWH, doing His will as he lives his everyday life. This someone has made YHWH his almighty God, will command and ensure his children and families to keep the ways of God. This person will do what is fair, just and he is a holy good man. He is willing to forsake his parent’s false religion. He is an intelligent moral being. He makes mistake but He believes God and is focused on God his whole life and doing His will. Then Isaiah 49:14-16 shall be fulfilled in this man’s life:

‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.’

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