The Saving Hand of God (Isaiah 59:1)
Today, I would like to look at two passages of scripture that show us the goodness of God to those who trust in Him. As we look into this passage what it will reveal to us is that we worship a God who is our Heavenly Father, a God of provision and a God who answers prayer with a mighty hand.
The first passage we will look at today is a question posed by Moses to God, in Numbers 11:22-23. In this passage we see a question and a response between Moses and the LORD. This conversation took place when God promised to provide the people of Israel with the provision of meat when they complained against the LORD. In fact Moses himself was filled with doubt as to how God was going to make this provision. In Number 11:22, Moses says “Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish in the sea be gathered together for them?”. Then the LORD responds to Moses in the next verse in Number 11:23 saying “And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you nor not.””
OK, before we proceed it is important to note that when the scriptures describe the ‘hand of God’, these passages does not mean that God literally has a hand. The Bible declares that God is Spirit as in John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” However this does not mean that God is incapable of taking on a physical form; in fact there are numerous times in scripture that God does take on a physical form. So the hand of God in this sense is talking about a guidance, provision, saving and patiently disciplining attribute of God.
Now, looking back at the conversations between Moses and God, what is interesting here is that we are talking about Moses out of all people. This is the Moses whom the LORD used to bring the people out of Egypt. This Moses along with the people of Israel who saw all the mighty works of God in order to deliver them from slavery and are currently leading them to the promised land. This also explains the LORD’s response to Moses in v23 saying “Is the LORD’s hand shortened?”. What does God mean by saying this, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened?” The answer to this is in Deuteronomy 26:8 saying “And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders.” So what God is saying is this – is the LORD’s arm no longer able to deliver or in other words, Is the LORD no longer able to do what He has done previously to make provision for them? God is trying to get the people of Israel to understand that He is not like the God’s of Egypt who can save sometimes and cannot other times, rather God is able to do all things according to the purpose of His will. You can trust Him at all times, because He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
This response of the LORD is to get Moses thinking again, rather than falling into senseless doubt. The LORD is trying to wake up Moses to really think about what he is saying. As we read these events in the history of Israel we see the doubt that the people of Israel often showed and the lack of faith shown by Moses in this instance. Especially after seeing such great wonders of the Lord and and to be the one to whom the God of creation Himself had literally spoken as it says in Numbers 12:8 says “With him I speak mouth to mouth,”
There are various examples of such unbelief in God, even though people had physically seen and experienced the mighty workings of God. Not just in the Old Testament, but it is the same in the New Testament as well as in the current age of the Christian Church. An example from the New Testament can be seen with the disciples of Christ in Mark 6:30-53. Here you read the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. This is an amazing miracle witnessed by the very own eyes of the disciples. But then soon after, you see the disciples get into a boat to go to Bethsaida on the other side of the sea and on their journey they encountered a storm, painfully struggling against it. Jesus seeing that the disciples were in trouble meets them at sea, walks on water toward them and enters into the boat. Immediately the winds ceased and this is what the scriptures says soon after in Mark 6:51-52 saying “And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Even seeing such miracles they did not understand but their hearts were hardened. This is truly a sad state. You would have thought the disciples would have learnt by this point.
Friends, it is easy for us to think this way but let us take a moment to examine ourselves in what our faith looks like. Can we learn something from this event. Do we fall into the same trap of unbelief as Moses and the various characters of the Bible did?
OK, at this point you may think to yourself, how can I compare my situation with Moses and the people of Israel. They saw the mighty deeds of God, they saw the Red Sea part and they saw all these wonders that we read of in the Bible. Not only they, but what about the disciples, they walked alongside Jesus Himself and they too saw and experienced Him in such a special way. What do I have in my life that I can base my trust in God?
The Basis for True Confidence in Gods Saving Hand
True belief comes by faith in Christ. A trust in God based only on seeing His mighty works is temporary as it is not built on relationship with Christ, but it is built purely on what is seen outside. It does not last very long because it is not based on a foundation of relationship with Christ. This is why our life in Christ is so different. We now have relationship with God, because through the death of Christ there is peace between God and Man. Romans 5:1 says “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now that we have peace with God, and having the indwelling Spirit of God we have a belief that goes beyond the superficial, it goes beyond mere words, and now goes straight to the heart. It is a daily walk with God where you have experienced His transforming work in your life and through prayer and the word of God are able to stand firm knowing in your heart that the “hand of the LORD is able to deliver.”, rather than the external temporal belief. In fact Jesus Himself speaks of this through the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The Rich Man who is being tormented in hell pleads with Abraham saying in v27-28 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house- for I have five brothers-so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.'”. Abraham responds and says to the rich man in v29 that ”They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'” The Rich man then responds saying that even this won’t work, but if someone goes to them from the dead, then they will repent. Take note here that we often seek a external sign in order to make the internal change, in order to establish an internal confidence. The Bible says that this will not do it, no matter how great an outward sign or miracle is, it will always remain temporary. It must be the very opposite in order for it to be real. It must be an inward change, which is unshakeable regardless of the outward or external signs. This is why Abraham then responds to the Rich Man in v31 saying “if they do no hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”
This is also why the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:22 “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” It is only those who are called, that have relationship with God Almighty and it is the basis of the work of the indwelling Spirit that our confidence remain in Christ alone, regardless of the external signs or even our own wisdom. Our strength rests in Christ alone.
True faith and trust in God can never come about by just seeing his mighty outworking, but it only comes by relationship with Him. It is only by knowing Him. It is not a trust in God by basing your faith on the circumstances around you, but faith in Christ alone. Even despite the impossibility of the situation that you are surrounded by, knowing through faith that God is able to deliver, when He has promised He will. The scriptures says when God speaks forth a word, it never returns void. Isaiah 55:11 says “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” If He has said it, it will be done.
Keeping this in mind lets look at the spiritual change and the work within; in comparison to Israel’s physical deliverance from Egypt bringing to conclusion that it is the internal miracle that should be the basis of your confidence in the mighty hand of Christ.
Deliverance from Slavery to Egypt | Deliverance from Slavery to Sin
When we read through the account of deliverance of the people of Israel after being slaves to Egypt, it serves as an example to us – we who are born again in Christ, that we too have been delivered from slavery. In fact the Bible tells us, that all of the history of Israel and scriptures should act an as example for our spiritual journey, as it says in Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
The slavery that Christ came to deliver us from was not a physical slavery as that of Israel, but it is of a spiritual nature. A slavery to sin and death. The Exodus reveals God’s victorious power and through it showing the Lordship and Sovereignty of God Almighty. It is the same for those who are in Christ, to us is revealed the victorious power of God and His Lordship in every aspect of our lives through Christ’s death, resurrection and rule in our lives . Exodus was an event of deliverance for an oppressed people. God heard the cries of the people of Israel who were in bondage as it says in Exodus 2:24 “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered the covenant with Abraham, with Issac, and with Jacob.” The “remembering” here is used in the sense of a human emotional understanding. It is not as though God had completely forgotten the people of Israel. In reality, God in His sovereignty already warned Abraham that this very thing was going to take place. We read in Genesis 15:13-14 saying “Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” You can see very clearly that God knows all things.
What we need to know and understand is that God is in total control of everything. You can have absolute confidence in Christ. This deliverance of the people of Israel was brought about by the central figure of ‘Moses’. God used Moses by raising him up, providentially protecting him from the kings decree of death, called him and commissioned him to lead his people out of Egypt. God endued him with power to accomplish his God given task and Moses’ relationship with God was unique. It was a special relationship. He was God’s chosen spokesman and any resistance to Moses was counted as resistance to God. To others God spoke through dreams and visions but to Moses, God spoke mouth to mouth as it says in Numbers 12:6-8.
We see that this Moses is the most significant figure in the history of the Jews and in inter-biblical Judaism Moses became a Messianic figure, prefiguring the final redemption of God. In fact Moses himself says through God’s revelation in Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ” I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” This is in reference to the coming Messiah – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, God Himself.
This Messiah, God Himself saved you with an outstretched arm. Just as Moses stretched out his hand over the Red Sea as God commanded to cross over to the other side, Christ made it possible for us to be delivered from sin and death and to be adopted as children into the family of God making it possible with his outstretched arms on the cross. This is a far greater deliverance than that of a physical worldly deliverance. This is a spiritual, eternal deliverance, one that cleanses you from sin, making you righteous, through the righteousness of Christ. This is the real power of the outstretched arm of God.
Now when you come back to our initial question and our judgment on the people of Israel saying, “they are without excuse to disbelieve God’s word, even Moses especially when they have seen the power of God at work before their very eyes?”. Now, at the same time ask yourself the very same question. You have experienced the transforming power of Jesus Christ in your life, knowing through faith that the death and resurrection of Christ paid for your sins on the cross and experiencing the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit work in your life. Experiencing the very real healing from being spiritually blind in the darkness of sin, to now having your spiritual eyesight opened to see the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a far greater experience because it is a work of God in and through you that would have been impossible in any other way. This is a far greater deliverance. It is a deliverance from death to life. And now do you still have doubt in the saving and delivering power of the outstretched arm of God? Or do you think that the LORD’s hand is somehow shortened and that He is not able to lift you up from your situation?
You see, the God I know and worship is one who is able to do all things, who says “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), the God I worship is the one who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), He is the most sovereign whose outstretched arm is able to deliver you today. Amen.
Learn to trust in what God says, not relying on the natural impossibilities or possibilities of this world.
The Written Law | The Word became Flesh
Secondly, not only has Christ delivered us from slavery to Sin, but just as the laws of God were given to the nation of Israel after their deliverance, so too for us Christ has given us the Holy Spirit who is able to teach us the Word of God. The finger of God himself wrote down the commandments as it says in Exodus 31:18 “And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.”. To us is given the Holy Spirit the very author of scripture itself, to indwell us and lead us in the way of Christ. Just as His outstretched arm delivered the people of Israel so too the outstretched arm of Christ on the cross brought about peace between God and man. So not only are we delivered from being slaves to sin but now it is possible to walk with God and have personal relationship with Him. This is amazing. Please take some time to think about the enormity of the work of Christ upon the cross. As it says in John 1:17 saying “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” We see here that Moses gave the children of Israel the rules of God, but only Jesus Christ could give them life and this is only possible through God’s grace. Let us not be mistaken but “grace and truth” was always there from the beginning. When you read Hebrews 11, you read of all the Old Testament characters who by faith looked forward to the cross, just as we who are in Christ now look back to the cross and we together now look forward to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace also shows us that God is love as it says in 1 John 4:8. The grace of God is shown through His love for us, He has lavishly poured out His love to us and this is shown through the sacrifice of Christ, that even while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
Not only did grace come through Jesus, truth also came because He was the very Word itself that became flesh. Again, this is amazing. John 1:14 says “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The point being made here is, what God reveals about himself is in Jesus, firstly that he is true and that he is real, more real than all you can see with your physical sight. What we see in Jesus is that He is the way, the truth and the life. This is true reality, as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:8 “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
According to Jewish tradition, the Torah was given to Israel at Mount Sinai on the Day of Pentecost. Now, according to the Book of Acts, the early church was given the Holy Spirit on the same day of Pentecost after being delivered from being slaves to sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
When the Law was given on Mount Sinai, the people of Israel responded to God’s call with an open acceptance to do whatever God had commanded and accept his every word. This does not mean that they were really prepared to do so, or very committed, but rather that they were inclined to make an oath and obey God, as it is written in Exodus 19:7-9 “So Moses came and called all the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.”” Similarly when the Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost the response was that of repentance and acceptance of whatever God would require. We read in Acts 2:37-39 saying “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, “what shall we do?” And Peter said to them , “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We see that the people of Israel only got the written law through Moses, but what we have received is far greater than that. The Holy Spirit has been given to us, the very author of all scripture, and Christ the Word dwelling in us.
Again question yourself, are you still lacking in faith after receiving such a great salvation? Do we fall into the same judgment as sometimes we place on the disbelief of the people of Israel after seeing such wonders of God. Do you still think the the Lords hand is shortened and He is not able to save you from your situation. Do you still think that the ear of the LORD is too dull to hear your prayers?
Friends we worship a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever. We are a blessed people, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit as it says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”
OK, now that you are aware of the greatness of the indwelling Spirit of God, notice that in the Old Testament scriptures not everyone had this privilege. The Spirit came upon certain Old Testament individuals for a specific task and once the task was completed, the Spirit generally departed from that person. Whereas we who are in Christ now have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:13-14 it tells us that this is the “guarantee of our inheritance”. Not only is the Spirit a guarantee of our inheritance but He also brings about some life-changing results. Let us look at some of these so you may understand the fullness of what Christ has provided through His Spirit.
1 The indwelling Spirit comes to a soul that is dead in sin and breathes new life into it. Titus 3:5 says “he saved us, not because of our works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. The is exactly what Jesus spoke of in John 3:1-8, as he spoke of being “born-again”. Not a physical birth which has already happened, but now to be born again in the Spirit, knowing that this is a complete work of God and not our own.
2 The indwelling Spirit confirms to us as believers that we belong to God an an heir of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Romans 8:15-17 says “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may be glorified with him.”
3 The indwelling Spirit installs the new believer as a member of Christ’s universal church. This is the baptism of the Spirit as it says in 1 Corinthians 12:13 saying “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
4 The indwelling Spirit gives us spiritual gifts equipping us with God given abilities for service in order to edify the church and serve the Lord effectively for His glory. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
5 The indwelling Spirit helps the believer understand and apply Scripture to his daily life. 1 Corinthians 2:12 says “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”
6 The indwelling Spirit enriches the believers prayer life and intercedes for him in prayer. Romans 8:26-27 says “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
7 The indwelling Spirit empowers a believer to live for Christ to do His will. Galatians 5:16 says “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” It is the Spirit that leads the believer in the paths of righteousness as it says in Romans 8:14 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
8 The indwelling Spirit gives evidence of new life by producing the fruits of the Spirit in the believers life. The fruits as mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 saying, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
9 The indwelling Spirit is grieved when the believer sins saying in Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The outcome of this is the conviction of the believer to confess his sin to the Lord so that fellowship is restored as it says in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
10 The indwelling Spirit seals the believer unto the day of redemption, so that the believers arrival in the Lord’s presence is guaranteed after this life. Ephesians 1:13-14 says “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
This is the great blessing for those who accept Christ as their personal savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart, bringing with Him an entirely new life of love, relationship and service to the Lord. All of this is only possible because Jesus Christ with his outstretched arm on the cross has now written his law on your hearts and minds. He is able to deliver you with a mighty hand today and do not lack faith in such a mighty God.
The Lords Discipline
Thirdly, with all of these blessings and provisions that the hand of the Lord has done and will continue to do in your life, it is important to understand that the hand of God in all His total and saving work also includes “discipline”. Throughout all scripture, God portrays Himself as a Father to those who received Jesus Christ as their Savior are His children, as it says in John 1:12 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God,”
The people of Israel – also considered as God’s children, as it says in Deuteronomy 8:5 saying “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. Likewise in the New Testament in Hebrews 12:6 it says “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” The analogy of a father/son is used because we can understand it. God is compared to a loving father who not only blesses His children but also disciplines them for their own good. As it says in Hebrews 12, that those who are not legitimate children of God, do not receive his discipline whereas a loving father disciplines his children in order that when we end up in sin and temptations of the world, our Heavenly Father disciplines us to bring us back to holiness.
When the children of Israel continually disobeyed God’s commands, God was patient with them and sent many prophets providing opportunity after opportunity including warnings. But when they did not turn back to God, God brought discipline to them in the form of plagues or enemy attacks, as it says in Jeremiah 40:3 “The LORD has brought it about, and has done as he said. because you sinned against the LORD and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you.”
So it is important to remember that, just as the LORD’s arm is not shortened and is mighty to save but it is also just as strong in bringing right discipline. This does not mean in any way that God stops loving you, but will always forgive the truly repentant heart and relationship is restored. When we continue in sin we can expect that our Heavenly Father will discipline us because He loves us and desires us to live holy lives. 1 Peter 1:15 says “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,”
So examine yourself today and test yourself to see whether you are living right according to God’s standards. Are you being led by the Holy Spirit and allowing the word of God to transform you into right living with Christ? Are you in a season of discipline? It is always good to stop and check why things are not going right in your life. Again the same hand of God that delivers may be used to bring discipline into your life, for your very own good. The moment you decide to turn to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to lead your life and living right for the Lord, the disciplining hand of God will turn to the hand of restoration, blessing, hope and peace.
What a wonderful God we worship, one who is righteous and just in every way. A loving Father.
In conclusion I hope what you have taken from this is that for God, all things are possible and His hand is never too short that it cannot save nor His hear not too dull that it cannot hear (Isaiah 59:1). Secondly, I hope you have learnt to never doubt the saving hand of God. Just like Moses and the disciples of Christ fell into doubt, let us be careful not to fall into this kind of unbelief instead to have an unwavering confidence in the Lord God Almighty. Thirdly and finally, I hope you have now understood that you can never increase your faith, or trust in God based on an outward sign or miracle. This is only truly possible when you have relationship with God. It is a work that begins inside of you and not based on the outward temporary signs.
So take some time to examine you relationship with Christ. It is just not good enough to know Him, or to just proclaim with your mouth that you have accepted Him as your Savior. This makes no difference. The real indicator is the state of your relationship with God. If you feel you are lacking in this matter, God is always waiting for you to run to Him and begin that intimate walk with Him. Make a decision to spend time with God, to walk with Him everyday and to increase your knowledge of Him by delving into His Word and through prayer.
This is the truly satisfying life, one that is built on the strong foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ, one where you are in Christ and Christ in you, as it says in John 14:20 “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”