Day 356

God's Hand is On You

Wisdom Psalm 145:13-21
New Testament Revelation 13:1-18
Old Testament Ezra 7:11-8:14


Hands are very important. On her wedding day, I took hold of our daughter’s hand and passed it over to the minister (who happened to be our son). His hand (for these purposes) represented God’s hand. He, in turn, joined her hand to that of her husband. Symbolically, I gave her to God and God gave her to her husband. A key part of the marriage ceremony is the joining of hands.

At one level, your hand is simply your palm, fingers and thumb. But when we use the word ‘hand’ we often mean it in more than just a physical sense. The ‘hand’ can be used as a metaphor for action, care and possession.

God uses hands. We read of Jesus healing through laying his hands on sick people, or even just touching them with his hands (for example, Mark 6:5; 8:23). At other times, he put his hands on people to bless them (10:16). He told his disciples that their hands would be used to heal the sick (16:18). Indeed, people were healed through the laying on of their hands (for example, Acts 8:17–18). Others were filled with the Holy Spirit (9:17; 19:6), or received gifts through the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6).

What about ‘the hand of God’? What does that mean? In the Bible, ‘the hand of God’ means something very profound. Ezra said, ‘Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage…’ (Ezra 7:28). God’s invisible and intangible hand is also on you: leading, guiding, encouraging, protecting, strengthening you and giving you courage.


Psalm 145:13-21

  13 The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
   and faithful in all he does.
  14 The Lord upholds all who fall
   and lifts up all who are bowed down.
  15 The eyes of all look to you,
   and you give them their food at the proper time.
  16 You open your hand
   and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

  17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
   and faithful in all he does.
  18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
   to all who call on him in truth.
  19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
   he hears their cry and saves them.
  20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
   but all the wicked he will destroy.

  21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
   Let every creature praise his holy name
   for ever and ever.


God’s hand is open and generous

‘You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing’ (v.16). This metaphor of the extraordinary generosity of God, who opens his hand to you to satisfy your desires, comes in the middle of a section of the psalm that describes God’s great love and faithfulness.

The poet, Robert Browning, wrote, ‘I have lived, seen God’s hand through a lifetime, and all was for best.’ ‘God gives a hand to those who are down on their luck’ (v.14a, MSG). ‘The trademark on all his works is love’ (v.17b, MSG).

‘The Lord is faithful to all his promises’ (v.13b). This psalm is full of wonderful promises. The Lord will uphold you (v.14). ‘The Lord is near’ to you (v.18), he fulfils your desires (v.19), he watches over you (v.20). All this inspires praise: ‘My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever’ (v.21).


‘Father, let me hold your hand, and like a child walk with you down all my days, secure in your love and strength’ (Prayer of Thomas à Kempis, c.1380–1471).

New Testament

Revelation 13:1-18

The Beast out of the Sea

13 And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”

5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

  10 “If anyone is to go into captivity,
   into captivity they will go.
  If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
   with the sword they will be killed.”

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

The Beast out of the Earth

11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.


God’s hand writes your name in the book of life

What an amazing privilege to have God’s hand write your name in ‘the book of life’ belonging to Jesus (v.8b). In the face of persecution ‘God’s holy people passionately and faithfully stand their ground’ (v.10b, MSG).

The first ‘beast’ (v.1b) appears to be a persecuting power. This chapter contains a description of human government at its worst – a demonic power. It needs to be read alongside Romans 13, in which human government is seen at its best – a godly authority. All human government is a mixture of Revelation 13 and Romans 13. Some governments are more like Romans 13, and some more like the description here. Do not be surprised, therefore, by governments making anti-Christian laws and even persecuting the church.

Perhaps the ‘seven heads’ (Revelation 13:1b) represent the seven hills on which Rome was built (see 17:9). The prophet Daniel saw beasts that look like the leopard, the bear and the lion, representing three successive world powers (Daniel 7:3). Here they are all rolled into one (Revelation 13:2).

‘The fatal wound’ that ‘has been healed’ (v.3) may refer to Nero (notorious for his persecution of Christians), who attempted suicide in AD 68 and was believed to have survived or come alive again (according to legend). This could be seen as a parody of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The beast attacks God’s people for forty-two months or three and a half years (this is typically the period that represents the time between the first and second coming of Jesus – that is, the age of the church). The beast persecutes the church. He makes ‘war against the saints’ (v.7). He has a large following.

The only ones who do not follow him are all those whose names are written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb, who was slain from the creation of the world (v.8b).

The second beast is a pseudo-Christ figure. He performs ‘great and miraculous signs’ (v.13). He is a deceiver. He forces everyone to have his mark on their right hands or on their foreheads (v.16). His number is 666 (v.18).

The number 666 at one level may again represent Nero, since the Hebrew letters for ‘Nero Caesar’ when converted into numbers total 666. On another level, numbers in Revelation are normally symbolic. Six is the number of imperfection (since seven is the number of perfection). 666 is therefore the number of triple imperfection, or complete sinfulness.

‘This calls for wisdom’ (v.18a). Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light and his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 11:13–14). The first beast has a ‘mouth like that of a lion’ (Revelation 13:2). The second beast has two horns ‘like a lamb’ (v.11). It is as if they are trying to appear to look like Jesus (who is the Lion and the Lamb, see Revelation 5:5–6).

Later, we will read of a third beast – Babylon (see Revelation 14:8 and chapters 17–18). The three beasts together seem to masquerade as a diabolical parody of the Trinity. They seem great and deceive many people. We need wisdom to discern the good from the evil.

Thank God that by his hand he has written your name in the Lamb’s book of life.


Lord, please give me wisdom, faithfulness and patient endurance. Help me to overcome evil with good.

Old Testament

Ezra 7:11-8:14

King Artaxerxes’ Letter to Ezra

11 This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the Lord for Israel:

12 Artaxerxes, king of kings,

To Ezra the priest, teacher of the Law of the God of heaven:


13 Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who volunteer to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. 14 You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand. 15 Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17 With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.

18 You and your fellow Israelites may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God. 19 Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God. 20 And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you are responsible to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.

21 Now I, King Artaxerxes, decree that all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates are to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you— 22 up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit. 23 Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should his wrath fall on the realm of the king and of his sons? 24 You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.

25 And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. 26 Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.

27 Praise be to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honour to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way 28 and who has extended his good favour to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me.

List of the Family Heads Returning With Ezra

8 These are the family heads and those registered with them who came up with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes:

2 of the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom;

of the descendants of Ithamar, Daniel;

of the descendants of David, Hattush 3 of the descendants of Shekaniah;

of the descendants of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him were registered 150 men;

4 of the descendants of Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men;

5 of the descendants of Zattu, Shekaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men;

6 of the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men;

7 of the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men;

8 of the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him 80 men;

9 of the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men;

10 of the descendants of Bani, Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men;

11 of the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him 28 men;

12 of the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men;

13 of the descendants of Adonikam, the last ones, whose names were Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men;

14 of the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai and Zakkur, and with them 70 men.


God’s hand is on those who look to him

God’s hand was on Ezra. The book of Ezra is about a community making a fresh start. It is not about one man. However, God did use Ezra in a special way.

Ezra knew that the Lord’s hand was on him: ‘Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me’ (7:28). Ezra takes a further 1,500 men – probably about 5,000 people in all – with him (8:1–14).

In tomorrow’s passage, we also read: ‘the gracious hand of our God was on us’ (v.18); ‘the gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him’ (v.22); ‘the hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way’ (v.31). As you look to God, you can be sure that God’s hand is on you as well.

Ezra was a priest and a teacher who had studied the Scriptures very closely – ‘priest and scholar, expert in matters involving the truths and ways of God’ (7:11, MSG).

God worked through a secular leader (Artaxerxes) to bring about his good purposes. Again, we are reminded that ‘the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases’ (Proverbs 21:1). Artaxerxes wrote a letter ordering provision for Ezra (Ezra 7:12 onwards).

Here we see an example of secular government that is more like Romans 13 than Revelation 13. Artaxerxes writes, ‘You are sent by the king... to enquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God which is in your hand’ (Ezra 7:14). He continues, ‘I authorize you, Ezra, exercising the wisdom of God that you have in your hands, to appoint magistrates and judges so they can administer justice… Anyone who does not know the teaching, you teach them’ (v.25, MSG).

Ezra says, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honour to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way and who has extended his good favour to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials’ (vv.27–28).

When God’s hand is on you, you are like a light on a hill (Matthew 5:15). His light shines out of you and it will attract people to him. He will use you as a leader, equipping you with all the courage and authority you need.


Lord, thank you that your gracious hand is on everyone who looks to you. Thank you for your love, mercy and protection. Because your gracious hand is on me I look to you today and take courage.

Pippa adds

I am slightly struggling with Revelation. I was looking for comfort from the Bible today, so I think I will stick with the psalm (I am not sure I feel strong enough for persecution!).

The Psalm says: ‘The Lord is… loving to all he has made’ (Psalm 145:13b). The Lord ‘lifts up’, ‘upholds’, ‘satisfies’, ‘is near’, ‘watches over’ (vv.14–20).

Now I feel better.



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Hiram Corson, Introduction to Robert Browning (IndyPublish, 2002) p.306.

Simon Thomas, ‘It’s all in hand: the lexical might of the humble “hand”’ (posted 2 May 2018), Oxford Dictionaries,

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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