By Robin Sam
And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand (Matthew 12:10).
IF YOU ARE reading this message with a physical or spiritual affliction that has made you dejected and hopeless, God is speaking to you through His Word this month. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God, says the Lord. Proverbs 23:18 says, ‘For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.’
The Gospels of Matthew and Mark record the condition of the man in identical words (Mt. 12:10; Mark 3:1). ‘…a man was there who had a withered hand.’ Where was he? He was in the synagogue. Your miracle will be manifest in the presence of God. When you come seeking His presence, He will intervene in your life mightily and exalt His Name.
We do not know the name of the man, but I guess he was more popular by his nickname. Perhaps, the man was used to insults and condescending looks because of his physical condition. But none of them who called him as ‘the man with a withered hand’ could do anything for him or make his life better. And, then his hour of miracle came! Mark 3:1 says, ‘And He (Jesus) entered the synagogue again…’ The verse implies that Jesus had already been there; but He entered the synagogue again. Why did the Lord enter the synagogue again on that day? I cannot think of any other reason beyond the fact that the man with a withered hand was there. Hallelujah! ‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). By a divine appointment, Jesus came seeking the man with the withered hand in the synagogue.
Do you know who my Jesus is? He is mindful of us (Psalm 8:4). He is mindful of the insignificant, the nameless, the least and the oppressed.
We do not know where in the synagogue the man was sitting, but going by what Jesus told him (‘Step forward’), it’s safe to assume that the man was perhaps in the last row of the pews. His physical condition was such that he did not want to be in the front row. Oh, how he must have wished to remain unseen and anonymous. Have you ever been like that man? Has that shame that you carry made you recoil and avoid public contact? Our infirmities and inadequacies always push us to the fringes of existence. One of the first things Adam and Eve wanted to do after they sinned and discovered they were naked was to look for hiding place. Oh, how God wishes us to know that He alone can be our hiding place, the perfect remission of our sins, the strength in our weakness!
Do you know who this God is? He is the One who calls you by your name! He is the One who calls the marginalized to step forward. He is the One who shines His face on the dejected and the despised. He is the One who brings the ones in the fringes to the centre. Those six stone water pots were kept in a house in Cana according to the manner of purification of the Jews (John 2:6). They were filled with water to be used by the Jews of the house for ritual cleansing whenever they came back home. When the wedding party ran out of wine, Jesus did not ask for vessels from inside the house to be brought to Him; instead He asked the servants to simply fill water in those water pots that were outside the house. Jesus can still make vessels of dishonour into vessels of honour by filling them with His glory. ‘But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us,’ says 2 Corinthians 4:7.
Why did Jesus call out the man with the withered hand? To restore him, of course! To glorify the Name of God through him. God has not changed. He is still looking for people through whom He can glorify His Name. So, don’t merely pray for your healing. Pray that God will bring glory to Himself by healing you.
Do you hear your name being called out by God? But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
Do you know why Jesus called the man with the withered hand to step forward?
The God who tells us to ‘be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10) during our time of misery is the same God who asks us to ‘step forward’ in our time of miracle. Jesus intended to do 3 things in the life of man with the withered hand when He asked him to step forward. Let’s look at them in the light of the Scriptures.
- To transform his life forever
David wrote Psalm 22 when he was forsaken by his family and friends. When he was without hope, help and strength, his enemies surrounded him like strong bulls of Bashan, like a raging and roaring lion. Like dogs, when they encircled him David indeed was without hope and help, but he recollected the ways in which the Lord had delivered him from troubles in the past. Fortified by the pleasant memories, he testified thus: “I will declared Your name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise You (22nd verse).
When everybody saw the pitiable situation of the man with the withered hand, Jesus saw his glorious future. When everybody thought the man with the withered hand had nothing to look forward to in life, Jesus saw what he could become. Jesus saw the man lifting up both his hands and praising God in the midst of the congregation. Jesus asked him to step forward because He wanted to transform the man and take him from his position of lack to the position of praise!
Child of God, what’s the area of lack in your life and ministry? What’s the area of lack in your workplace? When everything around you looks alright, you know where the lack is. The area of your life where there is no growth, the patch of garden where there are no new sprouts, the God-ordained spring in your ministry that has dried up, the storehouse that feeds nobody because it’s empty –that is your withered hand. Surrender that area to Jesus. He is the One who said ‘Surely there is a hereafter – your hope will not be cut off.’ Give up that depleted spring, that empty storehouse, that patch of no growth to Jesus. He will restore it like the fertile areas of your life, just like He restored the withered hand like the normal, healthy and functional hand. Let your soul sing to the Lord a new song today!
- To make him reflect on God’s grace forever
In Psalm 48:9, the psalmist says: ‘We have thought, O God, on Your lovingkindness, in the midst of Your temple.’
What did God do for the psalmist that made him think about His lovingkindness in the temple? God delivered his countrymen from their enemies. Fear took hold of those who came against the nation in the city of God, in the city of the great King. The psalmist knew it was no mere human hand that made the kings tremble and take to their heels. When the sons of Korah knew their God sends the east wind to break the ships of Tarshish, they could not but praise God.
This God who dwells on high, raises the poor out of the dust. He lifts the needy out of the ash heap to seat him with princes. He grants the barren woman a home like a joyful mother of children (Psalm 113:7-9).
When was the last time you praised God for His goodness and the awesome wonders He has done in your life? Take time to reflect on God’s goodness and lovingkindness in the midst of His temple.
- To make him pay vows to the Lord
In Psalm 116:18-19 the songwriter says: ‘I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.’
The psalmist is particular that he will pay his vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people, in the court’s of the Lord’s assembly and in Jerusalem, the holy city.
The Lord had indeed done him a great thing. He had delivered him from all his bondages. ‘For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears and my feet from falling,’ says verse 8. A heart of gratitude cannot be silent. It will overflow with a good theme (Psalm 45:1).
David says in Psalm 22:25, ‘My praise shall be of You in the great congregation; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.’
We do not for certain if the man with the withered hand had taken a vow to the Lord, but we know this for sure: He was a man in need. And, men in need desire a change in their lives. They long for a touch of the Lord. When all hope fails, they look up to the Lord and await a miracle. I am sure the man with the withered hand was no exception. And on that day when Jesus entered the temple again, his hour of power had begun. Hallelujah!
His withered hand was the right hand
We read about the man with the withered hand not only in the Gospel of Matthew, but also in Mark and Luke. But it is only Luke, the physician, who records this about the man. ‘Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered’ (Luke 6:6). That’s a detail Matthew and Mark had forgotten to mention in their gospels.
Why did Luke stress that the withered hand was the right hand? For two reasons – the most obvious being the right hand is the hand that is associated with his work. And, that makes the point important. He needed his right hand to make ends meet. The right hand was the hand that provided for his family. Bible scholars say the man was perhaps a stone mason and he was used to hard labor until his right hand withered.
The right hand is the hand of skill
The Bible tells us that the right hand is associated with one’s work or labor. When Babylonians wanted the Israelites in captivity to sing them one of the songs of Zion, those Hebrews who hung their harps on the willow trees said: ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill’ (Psalm 137:4,5).
God’s right hand is the hand that blesses us
The right hand is not only related to one’s occupation, it’s also associated with blessings. The God who said He will not forsake the covenant He made with the nation of Israel says in Isaiah 41:10, ‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
When God tells His children not to fear, He is telling them He is their help. ‘For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’ (Isaiah 41:13). Yes, even today He is willing to stretch out His righteous hand and hold our right hand.
Pleasures evermore at God’s right hand
David says in Psalms 16:11, ‘You will show me the path of life; in your presence if fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’
Even when we are foolish and ignorant before Him, God works with us. ‘Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory’ (Psalm 73:23,24). To be held by His right hand is blessing that we should not miss.
The Holy Spirit says Israel is a vine brought out of Egypt (Psalm 80:8). We are His chosen people in the New Testament. A holy nation and a royal priesthood. And when everything looks dark and gloomy around us, we need to ask God not to forsake the vineyard that His right hand had planted.
‘Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; Look down from heaven and see, and visit this vine and the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself…’ (Psalm 80:14,15).
When we call unto God, we can be sure of one thing. What’s that? He hears our prayers; He sees our tears and grants our supplications. When everything around is a certified failure, God’s right hand will fight our battles. ‘The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly’ (Psalm 118:17).
Like the saints of the Old Testament days when darkness clouds our horizon and God seems distant, it is good to remember the days of old. When it seems that our prayers are not answered, it is good to ‘remember the years of the right hand of the Most High’ (Psalm 77:10). He saves those who trust in Him. He will show His marvelous lovingkindness by His right hand’ (Psalm 17:7).
The God who held the right hand of the gentile king, Cyrus, to accomplish His purposes, will he not hold the hands of His own children and uphold our justice? Trust in Him even when the night is dark and the clouds thick. He makes all things beautiful in His time.
The right hand of blessing upon Ephraim
Jesus Christ may have had another reason to restore the withered hand of the man. The right hand is associated with blessings. With the restored right hand, the man could now bless his children and their descendants.
Joseph knew the importance of the blessing of the right hand. When he thought blessings come according to seniority, his father Jacob taught him an important lesson – God’s blessings come not according to seniority but according to His priority! Hallelujah!
When Joseph knew Jacob was nearing death, he brought his two sons to the patriarch. He brought them before Jacob in such a way that Jacob’s right hand would be upon Manasseh, Joseph’s firstborn, and the left hand upon Ephraim, the second born.
However, the Bible says: ‘Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn’ (Gen. 48:14).
When Joseph saw that Jacob’s right hand was upon Ephraim, the younger son, he was displeased. So, he took hold of his father’s right hand tried guiding it upon Manasseh’s head. Jacob’s words to Joseph reveal to us that the blessings of the right hand are not accidental but intentional. ‘But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations’ (19th verse).
As the church of the New Testament, we are called to bless others. Ours is a higher calling. We are also called to bless those that curse us (Mat 5:44; Rom.12:14). How often do you call aside your children, pray with them and bless them? When was the last time you cancelled all the curses that you and others inadvertently heaped upon your children and your descendants by words that you did not mean but said nevertheless?
1 Peter 3:9 lets us into a great Scriptural reason to bless others: ‘…not returning evil or evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.’
The most-important blessing of God’s right hand
The blessings of the right hand are not for this world, but for the soon-to-come world too. Jesus Christ is now seated at the right hand of God and His ministry now is to make intercession for us (Romans 8:34).
A time is coming when God will make us His children discern between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve them (Malachi 3:18). A time when all the nations are gathered before the Son of Man, He will separate them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats, says the Bible. ‘And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left (Matthew 25:33). Those that stand on His right hand are the blessed ones. The King Himself will invite them to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Hallelujah!
That’s one blessing of the right hand that you and I should not miss out on. I pray to God that He will guide us, guard us and lead us towards that blessing of all blessings. Amen.