The Open Hand

“These wait all upon thee [God]. … Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.” —Psalms 104:27,28

ONE OF THE most persistently reiterated themes of Holy Writ is man’s utter helplessness to direct his life without God. At every turn of life man comes up against his needs, though it is but rarely that he either knows or realizes the extent of that need. The absoluteness of this need is not brought home to the heart or mind of man, because of the universal generosity of Almighty God. Only if God withdrew his activities from this planet entirely would man come face to face with the indisputable fact of the universality of his needs. If God kept back the rains, which fall impartially upon just and unjust; if he withheld the fruitful seasons (Acts 14:17) with their bounteous harvests; man would realize the utter helplessness of his position.

The effects of local famines have been serious and have brought ruin and destruction to man and beast. But these famines have usually been localized; there has mostly been abundance elsewhere, and relief has usually been despatched from the region of the abundance to the place of want. God has never withheld his gifts worldwide. He has never caused the universal harvest to fail. So unfailingly, yet naturally, has the bountiful God bestowed his gifts, that men sow, doubting not for a moment but that they will reap, and call the sowing and reaping nature’s common round. But should God withhold his hand, their sowing would be vain—man may plant and man may water, but without God there would be no increase. On the other hand, we find God’s ability and disposition to give are equal to man’s needs. 1 these two factors in universal life are complementary to each other. God is the source of unfailing abundance, man the creature of unending need.—Ps. 104:10-15

Not less is this so in the religious life of man. Here again the persistently reiterated theme of Holy Writ is man’s utter helplessness and universal need. Again the other side of the question, obverse to man’s need, is God’s ability and disposition to give. The beginning of God’s generosity to fallen men dates from Eden days, when in the act of imposing the sentence required by his broken law, God promised that mother Eve’s ‘seed’ should eventually bruise the Serpent’s head. This generosity he repeated to Noah, in that he promised summer and winter, seed-time and harvest. To Abraham God gave that most wonderful promise which is the basic feature of the whole plan of redemption. By the gift of his promises, God also gave hope to fallen man. God said to man, “I will bring blessing to you.” Man, musing on the promise, said, “God will bring blessing to us some day,” and so hope and expectancy were born.—Gen. 22:15-18

God gave Abraham a ‘seed’—first a son, then a nation. To this nation God gave his Word and his Law, those “lively oracles” (Acts 7:38) which Moses received at Sinai. That Law was the most advanced moral standard of its day, and had it been received and obeyed would have raised Israel high above the nations around. That sacred gift from Sinai forms one important section of the Holy Book we treasure as the Word of Life. He gave Israel a Tabernacle so that he might give them the benefit of his presence in their midst. He gave them the good land on which the eye of God rested with delight. (Exod. 3:8; Deut. 11:12) He gave them judges and deliverers when they fell into captivity—reformers who led them back to their oracles, and seers who carried their minds forward to higher expectations. God gave them advancement and prominence among the nations under David and Solomon, when the fame of Israel’s king spread to the distant quarters of the world.

The dual nations which later came about were given the benefit of God’s patience and longsuffering, though they were fast becoming vessels fit only for destruction Becoming inveterately idolatrous, Israel first, and Judah afterwards, were given the spirit of slumber. (Rom. 11:8) Under the conditions, this was a boon to them, for the blindness which came minimized the degree of their responsibility. Because God thus concluded them all in unbelief he will be able, in the Millennial Age, to have mercy upon all, “and so all Israel shall be saved.”—Rom. 11:26

Isaiah, commissioned to deliver the message of rejection, said, “The Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep and hath closed your eyes.” (Isa. 29:10-16) Yet he concluded his denunciation with the statement, “Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field.” (vs. 17) The gift of slumber, while it deprived the two nations of their land for centuries, and of the privilege of supplying all the body members of the Christ class, will have kept the national spirit in a state of hunger for the appearance of Messiah as an exalted king.

In due course God gave to the returned remnant nation in Jerusalem his greatest and best gift—his well beloved Son. This was the gift which lay dearest to his own heart. Jesus came to earth bearing the tidings of the Almighty’s great love for men, especially for those who were children of God’s friend, Abraham, and who shared his faith. (Jas. 2:23; Isa. 41:8) What tremendous possibilities God set before that generation in Jerusalem when Messiah came to them! (Dan. 9:25) In the first place, God purposed to give Israel redemption for their national sins through his Son and through repentance. (Luke 1:68-79; Acts 5:31) God desired to touch the deep well-springs of their hearts by the ministry of his well beloved, and thus to lead them to repentance.

Again, Jesus was destined to be a bringer of light to his people. God desired to bestow the gift of understanding upon that generation, so that it might comprehend what his higher purposes were—that the heavenly things were about to displace the earthly, carnal things. To those who were responsive to the new teachings, God gave an understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom. (Matt. 13:11; Mark 4:11) “Unto you it is given to know” what was hidden from other ages.

Again, God gave Jesus to that people, to be to them as Bread of Life. In a manner similar to wilderness days when God strewed the earth morning by morning with manna, so again, in another forty-year “today” (Heb. 4:7), God provided living bread for the children of Abraham. (John 6:27-65) In some supernatural way, the words of the Lord would have sustained their deeper life, and eventuated in eternal life. (vs. 63) In some super-mundane way, his flesh would sustain the life of the world. God gave living bread to those who could eat. (John 6:32) Again, to vary the ‘sustenance’ figure of speech, God gave Jesus as the water of life, of which, if one should drink, it would satisfy his thirst forever.—John 4:10-15

God gave Israel a shepherd, who would have guided and pastured the flock of God in paths of righteousness. (John 10:1-16) But there was no beauty about him that they desired him. They wanted a king—a conquering Messiah. He came as a sufferer, a Man of sorrow, an offering for sin. The nation rejected him, but to as many as did receive him God gave the privilege to become his own sons. (John 1:12) To those whose hands were open to take, God gave many other gifts along with and through his beloved Son! Giving! Giving! Giving! God gave all the time, to those who knew their need.

Even after they had despised and crucified his Son, God still kept the door of opportunity open for such as needed more than the ritual and ceremony of the Temple sacrifices. To many among them the words of Jesus had opened a new world of possibilities. He told of grand and new opportunities and privileges. (Matt. 13:35) He set new longings rising in their hearts, but because the supporters of Jesus had been powerless against the Sanhedrin and priests, they had not been able to veto their schemes nor their fearful deed when Jesus had been slain. How readily they listened on that fateful morning when “Peter stood up with the eleven” and told the people that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and again desired through him to “give repentance to Israel.”—Acts 2:14; 5:31

But only a remnant was found, who desired that gift of repentance and redemption. To fill the place vacated by this hard-hearted people, God turned to the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name. To these also God gave repentance unto salvation. “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I that I could withstand God,” were Peter’s words. (Acts 11:17) “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life,” was his brethren’s response. Repentance, the gift of God? Yes, verily! They who received the word into good hearts are such as are “opened” by the Lord. (Acts 16:14) No man comes to the Son save those whom the Father draws.—John 6:44,65

The faith that saves us is God’s gift (Eph. 2:8) through the operation of his Word (Rom. 10:13-17) and of his Spirit in their hearts. The peace that garrisons their hearts comes from God, too. (Phil. 4:7; John 14:27) This is a precious gift to those who dwell in a tempestuous world. Perfect peace is bestowed upon all who dwell upon the Rock of Ages. (Isa. 26:3,4) And love—that most desirable God-like trait? Yes, that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which he gives us. (Rom. 5:5) We cannot add so little as one inch to our spiritual stature by taking thought. It is possible to spend too much time talking over the necessity for our growth in love, and be all the time forgetful of the fact that love is a fruitage (Gal. 5:22,23), and is as much a matter of the husbandman’s concern as that of the branch in the vine itself. God is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask than any earthly father is ready to give his children food. (Matt. 7:11) More Holy Spirit power in the heart means more love to shed abroad in the life. This love also, is a gift from God, for we love because he first loved.

Again, not only is the bestowing of the Holy Spirit the basis of character development (II Cor. 3:18), but it is also God’s pledge of the inheritance we hope to receive. It is the token that God has taken us into his service, and that the final reward will be sure, if we discharge our duties faithfully. “God … hath sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (II Cor. 1:22; 5:5) This Holy Spirit is an energizing and stabilizing power. It is not a spirit of fear, but of cool, reasoned courage, and of a sound mind. It produces the spirit of sanctity blended with sanity in our minds. It is a well-balanced, properly-ordered sanctification of life.

It is God who hath wrought us for our resurrection change. (II Cor. 5:5) The transformation is wrought by his Spirit. (II Cor. 3:18) And then for the day-to-day struggle he gives his grace to such as kneel at his throne of grace, humbly beseeching assistance in their time of need. (Heb. 4:16; Jas. 4:6; I Pet. 5:5) Thus the whole range of the Christian’s life and experience is called into being and sustained by God’s gracious gifts, but it does not end even at that, for he will give the complete victory over death, and over the grave. When that which is mortal is swallowed up in immortality, and death is swallowed up in victory, the faithful footstep followers of the Lord will see him, and be with him forevermore. “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—I Cor. 15:57

From first to last, the Christian’s life is one of receiving; for what has he, that he has not received? It is a life of faith with an open hand—with courage to ask and to receive. It is the story of a great need which grows as it feeds, and which is more pronounced at the end of the way than at the beginning. Thank God, even its deepest need does not exhaust the capacity of the bounteous Giver. Though its demands are presented every day—yea, many times a day—the riches of his grace are of ample store for each and all that call upon him.

The story of divine grace is the record of one who has been disposed to give, and give, and give again, because it pleased him to dispense of his fullness to helpless, needy men. Because he allowed man to fall into a great need, God is in a still greater position to play the part of a great giver to the full. Man has but to open his hand to take of that bountiful fullness which God opens his hand to give. (Ps. 104:27,28) If God withheld not his well beloved Son, “shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”—Rom. 8:32

Christian experience of this and other days, shows without fail that they who are most developed in grace are the ones most conscious of their need. The more one has grown in the things of the Lord, and the more tender and sensitive the heart has become, the more such saints become persuaded of their need for God. The ultimate end of every quest of the mature heart is not merely to be the recipient of God’s gifts, but also to receive with open heart the Giver. It is good to accept with open hand the gifts of God; it is better far with open heart to accept the Giver himself. No wealth of earth is so desirable as the gifts of God; the whole world itself is but nothing, in comparison with possessing God.

Beloved in the Lord, cultivate with diligence your needs, then you shall find that God can more than supply them all today, tomorrow, and to the end.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |