My mom’s hands were marked by age. The skin on the back of her hands were thin, like a fine parchment with age spots scattered haphazardly among a network of prominent veins. Her finger joints, especially her thumbs, were swollen and arthritic. Her palms, resembling the roads on a city map, were creased by eight decades of living. Her hands give testimony to a full life.
The similarity between our hands is striking. I look at my hands and notice the swollen joint and prominent veins. I wonder, “What story do they tell about my work and my life?” Are they industrious and committed hands, which glorify the Lord? Are they open hands, ready to serve, share, receive and give thanks? Are they closed hands, clenched in self-righteous anger, intolerance, and greed?
According to James Strong’s Complete Bible Reference Study Library, the word hand is a primitive word, yad (pronounced “yawd”). It describes an open hand, indicative of direction, power or means. It contrasts the Hebrew word, kaph, which describes a closed paw.
Let’s look at how Moses employs yad in the following examples:
- After forty years wandering in the desert, Moses understands the nature of God’s chosen people. He knows they are distractible, impressionable, impetuous, and easily led astray. Therefore, he assembles the Levites and tribe elders for a severe, before-the-fact tongue-lashing. He uses yad in his address. “For I know that after my death, you will surely act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you. And in the days to come, evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands,” (Deuteronomy 31:29).
- Moses concludes Psalm 90, which is a lament about the frailty and brevity of human life, with the following: “Let the favor of the Lord be upon us, and establish the work of our hands; yea, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17).
From these two examples, we extrapolate that the work of our hands can either provoke or glorify the Lord. We understand that the work of our hands is more than kneading bread, washing dishes, changing diapers, driving a truck, or writing a memo. The work of our hands encompasses the heart with which we knead the bread, wash the dishes, change the diapers, drive the truck, or write the memo. The work of our hands reflects a life lived for self, in which case we provoke Him, or a life lived for Christ, which brings Him glory and honor.
Like the Israelites, I have the natural inclination to be distracted, impressionable, impetuous, and easily led astray. Therefore, I open my hands to the Lord in prayer every morning and ask Him to guide me through the day. After all, life is short, and I want the work of my hands—complete with their age spots, prominent veins and swollen joints—to reflect a life lived for God!