“He said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” – Luke 6:10
At best the living God is a dim reality to us in comparison to what He might be. In its childhood humanity was near to God. They of most ancient times felt His presence operating in them. They were conscious that His love in their hearts was from Him. Their intelligence was the light from the love that was within. The two worlds that are within us were then in harmony. The natural world reflected the spiritual world within. It awakened the higher life of the soul, and opened the spiritual paradise where they communed with God.
They saw, when the clouds yielded their moisture, how their God revived and nourished them from His Spirit by the doctrine that dropped as the rain and the speech that distilled as the dew, like the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass. The wind that bloweth where it listeth was to them the spirit of God enriching the heart. The first rays of the rising sun as they came streaming in over the horizon were to them a vivid symbol of how they received within them the light of intelligence from heaven’s sun. As the sun rose full and clear, driving back the darkness of night to usher in a new day, they thought of the glories of another and higher world than this which the sun of righteousness ushered in, and for which they were preparing, and they felt new vigor. Nature, the unwritten Word of God, was to them a living language through which heaven spoke. In that spiritual Garden of Eden God walked and talked with them, and they were near to Him.
We do not now see or feel such nearness of God. He seems far off. The heavens indeed have their glory and majestic beauty, but we fail to read from it the words of eternal life. Nature is radiant with its beauty, but for the most part it is for us merely nature’s beauty, and not thought of as the voice of God. We look with awe at nature’s power, that with infinite precision grips the great planets and swings them around the sun for ages upon ages with a tireless arm. But a heavy veil drops its curtain over the inward power, and we scarcely see a tracing of the Divine form through the heavy folds.
Why has God so withdrawn His presence? Why has He so changed His relation to us?
We know that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has not withdrawn His presence. “Lo, I am with you alway.” God is present with us now as always; present with all the perception of our needs, with all the power, revelation, and blessings that ever characterized Him. Yea, and more so, for in His glorified Humanity He is present with the light of seven days – in fulfillment of the prophecy, “And the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.”
It is we ourselves who have withdrawn from His presence. Through heredity and through our own failures because of our trust in self, the Lord seems far from us. Our love of wealth and power and the glamour of the world darken our minds against the light from above, and render our hearts unresponsive to the gentle sphere of God’s presence. Our iniquities have separated us from our God. These iniquities are from our heredity, from the materialism into which we are born, the sphere of the world and the falsities that we imbibe, and the evils we choose to make our own.
Peace is found in the knowledge that God is present. He is present. The appearance that He is not is but the deception of evil spirits who are enemies to our salvation, and who incessantly strive to keep us in their abode of darkness far removed from the Divine presence and power.
Our text teaches that God is most closely and practically present, and reveals the law of access to Him. As the opening of the eyes of the blind were a prophecy of the restoration of sight to the eyes of men who have eyes but see not; as the raising of the dead is the symbol of the resurrection from death in sin; like each miracle that the Lord performed, this miracle dramatizes the laws of the life of the soul in its relation to its Creator. It tells of the Lord’s perception, sympathy, presence, and power. The laws of our mental and spiritual growth, the laws of the world’s progress, the laws of our well-being and salvation are expressed in the words “Stretch forth thy hand.”
God is omnipresent – present everywhere. We cannot see Him with our material eyes, nor hear Him with our material ears, nor perceive Him with our physical senses, but we have higher faculties that can surely know Him.
The innocent will see Him: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The obedient soul will know Him: “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me… and I will love him, and manifest myself to him.” He who partakes of the bread of life can “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
In the higher nature of man are set faculties which can sense the presence of God, and if we do not feel His presence, it is because we have dropped down into the life of the external natural mind.
Electricity, with its ability to give superior light, to warm our dwellings, and to furnish power, was always present about us. But we did not know of it, and did not reach out for it.
What we do not use is gradually taken from us. The spiritual hand becomes withered when our knowledge of what is good and true is not carried out in life, when it is not received in the heart.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” If we do not in deed love the neighbor as ourselves, the hand is withered. Love that lacks interest is a flickering flame. How shriveled its powers are! He who finds no joy except in ministering to himself can give little help to others. His hand is too withered to be of any use. We may sometimes feel that we are too weak to accomplish what we should. The law is: use the affections which we have. Try. Send forth our powers, and they will eventually become commensurate with our understanding of truth and right.
Jesus said, “Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so; and his hand was restored whole as the other.” In these words is expressed the law of belief or faith. Belief and faith are the same thing, with the possible modification that belief may be used as meaning only the first stages of faith. Belief, as confidence that the Lord will save, is a first essential, in order that the mind may be stirred to action and to tenacity of purpose. “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life.” Faith then is truth seen, and so far as we put forth our energies according to truth, the truth will demonstrate itself, and great will be the results of our works.
Faith, or insight into truth, comes as one shuns evils. Hence first one must act against evils, that the way may be opened to the inflow of good and truth. Power flows into effort. So it is said, “Stretch forth thy hand.” This law operates universally. Everyone may take advantage of it. The laws of nature surround all alike, yielding their powers wherever means of receiving them are provided. Such is the mercy of the law, natural and spiritual. God acts alike in each to restore the withered hand in all who stretch it forth.
The restoration which the Lord seeks is not merely an external one that will not last. He seeks a restoration that is permanent, abiding in the person as a thing of his own. His efforts are not to cover over a withered hand with an artificial one, but to produce a new growth from the inside. He seeks to build us up from causes within ourselves, to strengthen us through calling into life faculties and powers that are within.
We would not want to bring up a child in such a way that he would be a victim of circumstances, for then, if the tide of fortune changed, all that he had would be swept away, and he would suffer grief instead of receiving a blessing. We would wish to bring him up so that he would have the faculty of continual growth. Any prosperity which comes otherwise is but a creature of time and space. It is not organized in the living tissues of the soul. Without spiritual understanding and judgment, whatever may be the outward appearance, the soul is but a withered hand.
The restored hand is a will put forth certainly according to clear perceptions of truth, which never fail, any more than any natural law can fail. These powers will furnish us with both spiritual and natural blessings, and develop in us the capacity to perform fixed uses. We are not born into these; they are developed by use. This law is clearly stated in the first book of Kings. Solomon said, “O Lord my God… Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart… that I may discern between good and bad… And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart… And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour.”