We were both seminary students in Washington DC. One frigid night in December, we walked through a display of 50 Christmas trees each representing a state. This holiday display was set up in The Ellipse between the Washington Monument and the White House. We had only one pair of gloves between us. In order to clasp hands despite the temp, we held hands while each wore a glove. The unclad hands found warmth in pockets.
I have distant memories of holding my parents hands, usually related to crossing a busy street. The same is true of holding my children’s hands in a parking lot or in a crosswalk.
Yesterday, I read from Isaiah 41 –
Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand . . . For I, the Lord am your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’ – Isaiah 41: 10, 13
It is the Lord’s right hand, a king’s hand of royal declaration, action, leniency, indictment, that brings him victory. We can be assured this same hand defends and blesses his beloved. Strengthened, Helped, Upheld. Alleluia!
Verse 13 then adds a wrinkle. I hold your right hand. The Lord’s right hand brings him victory and us blessing, mercy and grace. God then clasps our right hand. As if we’re being guided in a parking lot or through a crosswalk while we’re a mere child and our wiser, loving parent held us close to keep us from harm.
If the Lord’s right hand is bringing about victory, its the Lord’s left hand that’s bringing us comfort. In Christian dream imagery and interpretation, the left hand is not inferior or contrary to what king would dictate or order. The left hand or movement to the left is interpreted to mean the work of Holy Spirit. In the context of this hand metaphor in scripture, its the Lord’s left hand that brings us comfort by The Comforter.
I read Isaiah 41 along with other scriptures as part of my reading from The Daily Office lectionary from The Book of Common Prayer.
Ephesians 2 is the classic word we’re saved by grace through faith. What I read yesterday follows the thread I found in Isaiah.
It is not your doing; it is the gift of God – not by the results of works , so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2: 9
It is God who saves and delivers and makes whole. Our right hand is held by God’s left hand. We’re comforted and not left to work for our own salvation by ordering and declaring like a monarch insisting in his own way. Our hand is held fast and secure while it is the Lord, our champion and king, who acts on our behalf. Due to this alone, Do not be afraid. We’re saved by grace through faith. Daddy holds our hand, and we’re safe. Alleluia.
I also read from the close of Mark 1, a leper says to Jesus, If you choose, you can make me clean. Jesus, moved with pity, stretches out his hand and touches the leper and heals him. He extends, one can assume, his right hand.
I’ve heard Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding CA say in the Old Testament, if you touched a leper, you became unclean, and in the New Testament, by the work of Christ, if you touched a leper, the leper was made clean. This is the work of God’s victorious right hand.
I guess what still has me in its grasp is the image of God’s victorious right hand bringing blessing while his left hand brings comfort to us holding our right hand. Its his hand that does the saving. Our hand of action is secure in his grasp.
While walking with my beloved those years ago in DC in the grip of love and devotion, I had no action or movement to perform. I was merely in the clutches of my loved one, and that was all I wanted or needed.
If we permit ourselves to be in the grip of his grace and mercy alone, his love will be the source of comfort and peace we’ll want or need. I invite you to reach out again for his extended hand waiting for your grip.