Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Hand of God

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Bible that I'm reading this year and how sometimes, I think it goes overboard in some of its explanations (for example, footnoting that they have not used the word 'staff' but instead, have used 'walking stick' so as not to confuse the English reader who might think 'staff' means roster of employed individuals). 

Well, as I get deeper into the Torah, this Bible is at it again. You remember those passages when the Bible talks about God writing the Ten Commandments on the tablets Himself? Not once, but twice, Moses hauls tablets up the mountain and God writes His commands on them 'with His own hand.' That's what the Bible stays. 

What the footnotes say is, "Obviously, God does not have an actual hand and He does not do any actual writing. This is clearly just an anthropomorphism (ascribing human characteristics to something that is not human), so the reader should not think that God actually wrote anything or that God actually has a hand (or a finger)." 

Okay, but...

Why not?

Why can't God have a hand? Or a finger? Why can't He actually write things that we can see? A dis-embodied hand wrote on the wall in the book of Daniel, and everyone saw it. Are we to really believe that God couldn't write His Word on a few tablets for His beloved people? 

Remember, this is a God who walked with His people in the Garden of Eden. In a form that they could see and recognize as Him. This is a God who met with Moses face-to-face. Moses saw something different of God than the people saw in the smoke and the cloud and heard in the thunder. This is a God who has been ever-present with His people. He is a God who has a human form and a spirit form and a third form, which we're talking about here, that isn't clearly identified anywhere, but it's the form that walked in the Garden and met with Moses and so, there's got to be something to it. 

Remember, this is a God who created the heavens and the earth just by speaking the word, but when it came to man, He formed him. Hands-on. Or...whatever God has in place of what we might call hands. But why couldn't it be hands? 

Remember, we are a people created in His image. And while we know that means so much more than mere physical form and we often like to talk about how it means we have the heart of God or the soul of Him or the mind of Him or whatever, why couldn't there be at least some measure of physical similarity? 

Here's the thing: I get it. The Bible says we aren't supposed to make any images of our God, and so if we keep the form of God a mystery, then we can't be tempted to make any images of Him. I mean, just look at what we've done with our images of Jesus - which aren't, we have to confess, even historically accurate. Our light-skinned Jesus was probably not the guy who healed blind men in Galilee. But that doesn't stop us from pretending that He is. 

So of course, we want to keep from making idols. But at what cost? We keep forcing ourselves into this disembodied God who is so vastly unrecognizable to our human eyes that we have...nothing? Nothing at all? We say that He writes a message to His people - and we've seen Him do it - but we're not allowed to say that writing involves a hand? Because God can't have hands. God can't have a form, even though He's chosen two forms for Himself and revealed them to us plainly. His third form, His main form, His Father form, is supposed to be somehow different?

I believe God wants us to know Him. I believe He has always lived in relationship with His people. I believe He has a form that His people have known and have seen, though only perhaps a handful over the course of human history. I believe we know these things for certain because He told us so Himself

So all of this over-abundant caution about being so careful to say that when we say God writes, that doesn't mean He has a's absurd. It's essentially claiming that God wants to be unknowable somehow, and that's not who our God is. That's not who He's said He is, and that's not who He's shown Himself to be. 

Does that mean God has hands? Or fingers? I honestly don't know. I haven't seen Him in that form. Not face-to-face.

But does that mean He doesn't? I think that's a stretch too far in the other direction. 

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