An unseen but tangible hand presses the small of our back to keep us going. Two unseen hands equally tangible throw us a “stop sign,” like a third base coach to a runner who wants to score, and stops us in our tracks.
Divine guidance: Sometimes a hand from the back pressing us forward and at other times a hand in the front telling us to slow down or even to stop.
The Poet says it this way:
“You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me.”
The NIV translates the verse like this:
You hem me in — behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
These hands that hem us in are gentle hands, the hands of our best best Friend. There is wisdom here that sees beyond the obvious and knows what lies around the next curve in the road.
A Hand on Our Back
All of us need a push from time to time. Like a parachutist on his/her first jump we freeze in the door of the plane. Our Instructor pushes out into the freefall of faith, a sensation we could never feel in the safety of the aircraft and an on-rushing vision of creation we could never have seen through any window.
When the Lord tells us to do something, there is a natural hesitation to obey. This is good. We are warned in the Scripture to count the cost before beginning a new enterprise. It is proper to think things through, to plan, to gather resources and information and to build a team. Sometimes such careful analysis can lead to careless paralysis. At this point we feel that welcomed push in the small of our back, the gentle hand of a Savior leading us to greatness—and not just any greatness—but greatness in His eyes
A Hand before Us
There is this thing in life called momentum and it must be accounted for. It is closely related to its cousin, inertia—the resistance to a change in motion. These things are of this world, a part of God’s creation. As hard as it is to get something rolling, if gravity and inertia get hold of it, it can be even more difficult to stop or even slow down. Just as that beginning parachutist needs the nudge from the back, he/she also needs the braking power of the chute itself!
Too many well-intentioned souls have crashed to the ground when momentum carried them through a stop sign. When that runner in baseball rounds third base to head for home plate, if he runs through the two-handed stop sign of the third base coach and he is called out at the plate, not only has he made an out, he is in big trouble with the team. The coach and the whole team can see the whole play in the field the runner cannot see. And so it is with the Christ-follower who does not slow down or stop when the hands in front give the sign. He knows when it is time to score and when it is time to slide safely into third base, 90 feet away from home.
We can rejoice with the touch of the Master’s hands on our backs to get us going and keep us on track and in front of us to slow us down when disaster looms. Loving hands are these and wise, hands to be trusted to guide us safely home.
Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways. Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it. Where can I go then from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,” Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike. For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well. My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them. How deep I find your thoughts, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.… Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my restless thoughts. Look well whether there be any wickedness in me and lead me in the way that is everlasting.
Song of the Journey
I’ll Go where You Want Me to Go
Composer: Mary Brown
1. It may not be on the mountain’s height, or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice He calls to paths I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Yours,
I’ll go where You want me to go.
I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
O’er mountain, or plain, or sea;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord,
I’ll be what You want me to be.
2. Perhaps today there are loving words which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now, in the paths of sin, some wand’rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if You will be my Guide, though dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet,
I’ll say what You want me to say.
3. There’s surely somewhere a lowly place in earth’s harvest fields so wide,
Where I may labor through life’s short day for Jesus, the Crucified.
So, trusting my all unto Your care, I know You always love me!
I’ll do Your will with a heart sincere,
I’ll be what You want me to be.
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved