8. Hands and Feet
Do our hands labor of their own accord, or is there something spiritual within us which prompts them to work and expresses itself through them? Our love of doing, or our desire to do, is what sets the hands in motion; and our knowledge of how to do, guides them in their work. We mean the spiritual ability, and not mere physical strength, when we speak of putting our affairs into the "hands" of another, when we put the burden on his "shoulders," and lean on his strong "arm." The hands mean spiritually all the desire and thought which we put into the deeds we do. (A. C. 10019.) In a word, the hands are the deeds, which, regarded spiritually, consist of the desire and thought which prompt them. Everybody knows what is meant by the words, "Your hands are denied with blood, and your fingers with iniquity." (Isa. lix. 3.) The deeds are cruel and evil, especially the desire and thought which prompt them. (A. E. 329.) And again, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the lord, or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." (Ps. xxiv. 3, 4.) That is, he whose deeds are good, inspired by heavenly feeling and thought. (A. E. 340.)
In a general way we may speak of the hands and feet together as representing the outward life. We ask that our steps may be guided, that our feet may not stray from the right path, and we are asking for help to do right. "Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not." (Ps. xvii. 5; P. P.) The feet and the hands are both extremes of the body, and both are obedient to the inner desires and thoughts. They are however considerably different in their structure and use, and we can see some differences in their spiritual meaning. The feet are less noble than the hands and ccme into closer contact with the dust of the world; they are less responsive to the guidance of the will and thought; they are not so directly concerned in doing for others, but serve rather in bringing us where we can be of use, and holding us firmly while the hands do the work. When contrasted with the hands the feet represent rather the effort to determine the course of life toward good or evil, while the hands represent the more particular thought in regard to the service to be done to others. (A. C. 7442, 10241.)
Recall the touching scene when the Lord washed the disciples' feet. (john xiii. 5.) It shows us more plainly than words could do, His desire to help us to make our daily life right and good. He does not condemn us for the dust of the world which clings to us, but helps us to lay it aside and become clean. Perhaps we would rather that the Lord should look at our beliefs and our good resolutions than our actions; then we are like Peter who said, "Thou shalt never wash my feet. . . . Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." (John xiii. 8, 9.) But the Lord's answer (Ver. 10), "He that hath been bathed, needeth not save to wash his feet," means that when once one has entered upon the way of regeneration, then all he needs is, with the Lord's help, faithfully to make right the little steps of every-day life. Remember also the Lord's words, "I have given you an example." "Ye also ought to wash one another's feet." (John xiii. 15, 14.) We must, like Him, help others to do right. We must, like Him, judge kindly of them and delight to see and to help them to see that the wrong is not hopeless, but can be laid aside. (A. C. 3147, 7442.) Do we understand now the reason for the command given to the Jewish priests to wash their hands and feet? (Exod. xxx. 17-21.) Is it a natural washing of the hands and feet of the body that the Lord desires? (matt. xv. 2, 19, 20; A. C. 3147)
When the Lord charges His people to bind His laws for a sign upon their hands, and to let them be as frontlets between their eyes (deut. vi. 8), what does He mean? Surely not that they should make broad their phylacteries, but that the commandments should be the rule of their inmost affections and thoughts and of all their acts. (A. C. 9936.) Compare the mark of the beast in the right hand or in the forehead. (rev. xiii. 16.) Here the dominion of a false principle over the inmost affections and over their expression in thought and act, is meant. (A. R. 605; A. C. 10061.)
On a certain Sabbath the Lord "went through the corn-fields, and his disciples plucked the ears of corn and did eat, rubbing them in their hands." (luke vi. 1.) The Pharisees rebuked them, but the Lord defended them. What spiritual act did the eating represent? The reception of instruction. (T. C. R. 301.) What kind of reception is represented by eating "rubbing in their hands"? A reception alive and eager with desire to search out the living meaning of the instruction to them, that they might put it into actual practice. The Pharisees called the rubbing of the ears unlawful on the Sabbath day, which represents the fact that they had separated from the Sabbath and from religion all care for useful work and good life. They therefore became like a man with his right hand withered, and as we read on in the chapter we find them so described. "On another Sabbath he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered." (luke vi. 6.) He was cured as he stretched forth his hand in obedience to the Lord. The love of doing comes with the doing.
The right hand was withered. We have not considered the meaning of right and left, although, in a former Chapter, we found special mention of the right eye. Remember the two things which find expression in the hands, the love of doing and the knowledge how to do. Which hand usually responds more quickly to an impulsive desire? and which usually moves with more of careful thought? The right hand corresponds especially to the love and the left to the thought which we put into our work. There is always a similar difference in meaning between the right side and the left. (A. C. 10061; A. E, 600.) The man with the right hand, withered represents, therefore, those who have no love of doing what they know; to have the hand "restored whole as the other," is to gain a love of doing, equal to one's knowledge. (T. C. R. 301.)
The right hand and the left are strongly contrasted in the parable of the sheep and goats. "He shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." (matt. xxv. 33.) Those on the right hand are evidently those who do as the Lord teaches them, and those on the left hand are those who learn but do not do. (A. E. 600.) The Lord charged the disciples, "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." (matt. vi. 3.) It cannot be that we are forbidden to put careful thought as well as love into our work. What is forbidden is, to stop to think how good the act appears and how it will benefit us, when our whole heart should be in its use to others. (A. E. 600.) Again, we are commanded, "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out. . . . And if thy right hand [or thy foot] offend thee, cut it off." (matt. v. 29, 30; mark ix. 45.) It is a command to give up promptly and summarily every thought and every habit of life or desire to do, which leads us to what is wrong. (A. E. 600.) Many more passages will come to mind, where the feet are symbols of the daily life in the world, and the hands represent the love and the thought in what we do.
Suppose we read of the Lord's hands; they will suggest the Divine love and Divine wisdom coming forth in Divine works for men. "The lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." (Isa. lii. 10.) It is a grand picture of the power of the Divine love reaching down into the world in our Lord's human life, to save men. (A. C. 7205.) The arm suggests not so much the particulars of affection, which belong to the hand and fingers, but rather the omnipotence which prompts and sustains the whole work. Still more is power suggested by the shoulder. "The government shall be upon his shoulder." (isa. ix. 6; A. C. 1085, 4933-4937.)
Many times in healing the sick the Lord put forth His hand and touched them; He laid His hand upon the little children with His blessing. The extended hand was an expression of His infinite sympathy and desire to bless, and was the means of imparting the blessing. Our hands are the means of both giving and receiving influence. We lay the hand upon an aching head to give relief. Sensitive people are affected either pleasantly or unpleasantly by the influence received in shaking hands. This is but a suggestion of the Divine influence which came with our Lord's touch, showing us still more clearly how the Lord's hand and "outstretched arm" mean His loving power reaching forth to save and bless. (A. C. 10130; A. R. 55.)
When we read of the Lord's feet, we must think of His life on earth, and of His presence forever in His Divine Humanity. A prophecy of the Lord's coming said, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!" (isa. lii. 7.) It means the Divine human life with men. (A. E. 69.) In Luke we read of the repentant woman who stood at the Lord's "feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment." (luke vii. 38.) We do the same when we humbly draw near to the Lord in His Divine human life. As we compare our lives with His, repenting of what is not good, we wash His feet, for the beauty and purity of His life grows each day more plain. As we love the Lord's life, we kiss His feet and anoint them. (A. C. 3147; A. R. 49.)
Remember in the home in Bethany how Mary "sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word" (Luke x. 39); and how the Gadarenes "found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind." (luke viii. 35.) We sit at the Lord's feet when we draw near to Him in His Divine Humanity to be taught and protected by Him. The sitting emphasizes the permanence and the peaceful security of this nearness to the Lord. (A. E. 687; A. C. 3552, 9422.)
When the Lord was crucified and rose, the disciples and the faithful women feared that they should lose the Divine human presence which they had learned to love. Their anxious desire to keep the Lord's presence in the plane of this world's life was touchingly pictured on the Easter morning, when Jesus met the women hastening from the sepulchre, and "they came and held him by the feet." (matt. xxviii. 9; A. R. 49.) That He is still with us in this natural plane of life, the Lord taught us by showing to the disciples "his hands and his feet." (luke xxiv. 39, 40.) "Handle me, and see," He says. Make trial in practical life, and we shall know that the Lord is still with us in His Divine Humanity with all power in earth as well as heaven. (A. E. 513; A. C. 1729, 10044.) When the Lord revealed Himself to John in the Revelation, "His feet were like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." (REV. i. 15.) The golden girdle, the snowy head, and eyes as a flame of fire, represent the Divine presence on higher planes of life, but the feet of glowing brass represent the Lord's Divine goodness present with men on earth. (A. R. 49; A. E. 69; See Chapter 37.)
In the closing verses of Mark we read, "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." (mark xvi. 19.) It means that the Lord by His glorification became omnipotent, the very embodiment of the Divine power among men. (D. lord 35; A. E. 687, 1087.) How verses like the following grow in meaning as we learn when the Lord's hand and arm are mentioned to think of His omnipotence, His love and wisdom creating, protecting, and blessing men! "Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." (Ps. cxlv. 16; A. E. 294, 295.) "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deut. xxxiii. 27; A. E. 594.) "My times are in thy hand." (Ps. xxxi. 15.) "Into thine hand I commit my spirit." (Ps. xxxi. 5.) "Thou wilt show me the path of life; in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Ps. xvi. 11; A. E. 687; deut. xxxiii. 12; A. C. 4592.)