What To Do With Your Hands 2: What NOT To Do

There are many forms of divination out there. Pick your poison. From simple augury (really, a catch-all term), to necromancy (communication with the dead), to ornithomancy (divination by birds in flight), bibliomancy (kinda hard nowadays with e-readers), to tea-leaf reading, to palmistry, astrology… It’s quite literally endless.

A losing hand

Follow the suffix -mancy back and you’ll run up against a deep etymology. It’s essentially a suffix meaning “divination”. The prefix determines what type. My opinion is that it’s the same root for hand but I can’t prove it. While the word “emancipation” literally means “to release from the hands”–the “man” part referring to the hand–to draw the parallel between divination (anytypeof-mancy) and “something done with the hands” might be a bit of a stretch. At least from a professional linguistic standpoint. But for purposes such as these, it makes perfect sense. As an aside, the word “emancipate” in Ancient Roman legalese, literally meant “to free from paternal obligation and control”.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18, emphasis mine)

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 33:3) Come on! It can’t be that easy, can it? Actually, it is. It’s human’s who’ve made a mess of things and muddied the waters.

Every culture, the world over has, or had, its forms of divination. Something deep down compelled them to seek out answers to the unknown and largely unknowable by means other than, what? Scientific curiousity? Well, first of all, many people still practice these things to a greater or lesser degree. Secondly, there’s a measure of closure when one seeks an answer to an unknown issue through a medium (literally/figuratively) other than God. Or prime evidence. But we’re necessarily talking about the supernatural. And just because it feels right, doesn’t mean that we’ve received truth.

“And the Lord shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes:” (Deuteronomy 6:22)

While there’s no doubt that God uses signs, the way that God leads since the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is primarily through His Spirit. We didn’t just receive a portion of the infinite Holy Spirit to ignore and sideline. He’s here to lead us and guide us through all of our affairs, both the mundane and the supernatural. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (and daughters) of God.” (Romans 8:14)

Where can we go with this? Really nowhere unless we’re being led by the Holy Spirit.

I met a man one day with a jaunty porkpie hat. A musician, we talked for a minute or two. And when I mentioned that a dream of mine was to someday play electric bass, he asked to see my hand. I extended my right hand and he took it in his then proceeded to tell me about myself. I thought he was going to tell me that I had good hands for that sort of thing, develop callouses and all that. How naive! I wasn’t expecting him to read my palm. The things he said, while ambiguous and vague, did touch on seemingly innocuous things that were part of my life (as I’m sure are part of everyone’s). And everytime for a time after, that I thought about the things he touched on, I felt trapped by the things he said. One thing I will say though, there seemed to be an inner detachment to his character and personality that set him apart from other people. A…hands-off approach?

“The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands.” (Psalm 76:5, emphasis mine) I imagine a bunch of ancient soldiers, sans hands, wandering around the battlefield, groggy with sleep, searching for a large wicker basket of severed (not bloody, cartoony) hands that sits, hidden behind some large rock. The verse really refers to those who are proud and have forgotten what their hands are to be used for. Tsk. Tsk. I waggle my finger.

Hands off!

I wholeheartedly disagree with divination—anyone seeking a sign from some source using a set of esoteric rules that must be performed just right. The Bible condemns it too: “There shall not be found among you any one that…useth divination” (Deuteronomy 18:10) One thing I’m inclined to wonder about is, who set up the rules by which any kind of divination is supposed to work? The short answer, in my opinion, is that it’s our faith, misapplied. We bring to pass thoughts and notions from sources other than God, and then we’re off and running in a direction opposite God’s will for our life. It’s almost like a higher form of superstition–with an added evil component. Is superstition just a higher form of OCD? Food for thought…

Superstition is a crazy thing. The very rules and regulations that hold mystery and meaning for one, are totally dismissed and passed over in favor of one’s own common sense and insight, by another. Here’s the thing though. Both, bereft of God’s leading, will take you by the hand and ultimately lead you astray.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, emphasis mine)

“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:13)

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What To Do With Your Hands part 1

Holy hands

Paul writes to Timothy: “I will therefore that men (and women, right?) pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (1 Timothy 2:8, emphasis mine) Y’know, so much goes in to the act of lifting up your hands during a worship service. For me, it has to feel right—nothing against my church. There are times however that I don’t feel like doing it. What, are you overly concerned about what other people think? Uh. No. I refuse to do anything—especially when engaged in the most important activity of existence—from the motive of feeling pressured or…dared. God doesn’t work that way. I think that a similar thought pattern and process happens when we get in front of a crowd, either to speak or what-have-you. All of a sudden, you become extremely self-conscious and every invisible (perceived) flaw is open for the world to observe and critique. All eyes on me! Yikes. Trust me, they don’t really see all the things you think they do. The extremely sensitive individual must eventually deal with these thought structures. And while we may not have a problem dealing with one total stranger at a time, dozens or hundreds of complete strangers comprise a wall of input that the overly-sensitive person can’t take in and process while remaining circumspect, focused on themselves. Then again, there are those that are simply gifted in that area. Pray tell?

“Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight…” (Hebrews 12:1a)

How would the sea of humanity react if we flung off the mental constraints of shyness and doubt and insecurity, and just did what Paul says? “Pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands”? Well, don’t just do it because you feel the opposite! That’s never the right reason. If your heart is right before God and you don’t care what people think or, better said, the concept of another’s opinion doesn’t even enter the equation, go for it. That’s really how we’re supposed to live. So concerned about what God thinks (knowing that He loves us, of course), that another’s opinion—whether our own, or others’—isn’t even perceived. Worship God, and make everyone else uncomfortable. It’s totally doable, and I think in the right circumstances, sanctioned by God. And that’s the way to get to that state by the way: worhipping God in your heart. “Pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:7)

A question before we proceed: What do you think would be harder, to learn sign language and communicate silently? Or to speak without gesticulating one bit? That might sound a little weird, but humor me. Think about it. There’s a term in Linguistics: deictic. It’s a word that comes from the Greek and simply means “pointing out so as to prove”, one of many hand gestures that involuntarily accompany discourse and conversation. Whereas some disciplines use the word only in grammatical context, Linguistics places it in the act of conversing as a whole–more than merely words on a page.

Idol hands

You’re no doubt aware of the phrase “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. I think there’s an element of truth in that statement. There’s a two-verse passage in Proverbs (6:12-13) that has always intrigued me: “A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth. He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, (and here’s my emphasis) he teacheth with his fingers.” I’ve found that many of Solomon’s proverbs are inscrutable until the Lord brings me around to situations in life to which Solomon’s sayings directly apply. This is one of those phrases, one of those times.

Again, this might sound somewhat weird and highly specific, but notice what people do with their hands. It’s not like your trying to read their mind, or divine things about them through cunning. But when’s the last time you took a moment to notice people’s conversations through—not just their body language—but their gesticulations? An interesting observation.

“Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8, emphasis mine)

As an aside, there’s a story in book of 1 Samuel where “the ark of God was taken” (4:11) from the Hebrews by the Philistines after a crushing defeat. The Philistines then brought the ark to Ashdod (one of their cities) and put it “into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.” (5:2) Dagon was one of the many gods of the Philistine pantheon. The next morning, they discovered that the statue of Dagon had fallen to the ground overnight. They picked him back up and set him upright. The morning after that, “behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold…” (5:4, emphasis mine) Tsk. Tsk. I wag my finger. That’s pretty dramatic.

If you ever wonder what to do your hands, think about this passage from one of David’s psalms (63:3-4) “Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name.”

Look God, hands!