Have you ever let your anger get the better of you? I have. It happened on a day when I had not had much sleep for weeks due to raising two small children while being a full-time seminary student and working part-time at a church. On that morning I allowed my exhaustion to turn into anger. The five-year-old defied my directions to get ready for school and was having tantrum of her own. Between the two of us, it was the perfect storm in the house that morning. I had no patience and she had no self-control. So the part where shoes had to be put on or the bus would be missed became a WWE wrestling match. We rolled around on the floor as I tried to cram shoes on flailing feet as she wailed in protest. Because I was bigger, I won. She made the bus on time.
IMMEDIATELY guilt became the second challenger in the ring and in no time at all, it gave me a one-two knock out. I was miserable when I realized that I had allowed my anger and frustration to be the way I touched my child before sending her off for a long day at school. So after I dropped the three-year-old off at preschool, I drove to the school and asked the teacher if I could speak to my daughter in the hall. I’ll never forget the crushing humility of being on my knees and apologizing for how the morning had gone. I told her that Mommy was sorry for her angry hands.
In typical kid-fashion, my child hugged me and told me it was all right. She had forgotten all about it and was so happy to see me in school, and would I come in the room so she could show me off to her friends? I learned a great lesson that morning and never again did I let my frustration and anger be expressed in my hands. My voice, yes, but never my hands.
Today’s lectionary passage ends the Moses saga that we have been following for months. The great leader who singlehandedly brought a huge nation from slavery in a foreign land to the Promised Land has died.
The leadership reins are now passed to a young fellow named Joshua. All we know about him is that he is the son of Nun and that Moses had “placed his hands on him.” The first fact is a big nothing. Being the son of Nun was akin to being the son of none. But the second statement is everything. The “placing of hands” is an indication of the conference of power, an anointing of a kind, and a visual statement to the nation that this is the new leader who has been chosen not only by Moses, but by God.
Kings are empowered this way. Popes and Bishops receive their authority by a laying on of hands. Even local pastors feel the hands of the church’s authority on ordination day.
Deuteronomy 34 (Common English Bible)
7 Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eyesight wasn’t impaired, and his vigor hadn’t diminished a bit.
8 Back down in the Moabite plains, the Israelites mourned Moses’ death for thirty days. At that point, the time for weeping and for mourning Moses was over.
9 Joshua, Nun’s son, was filled with wisdom because Moses had placed his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to Joshua, and they did exactly what the Lord commanded Moses.
How are you using your hands today? Do they communicate gentleness and love, or anger and hostility? Can your hands be employed to confer kindness to someone else? What would God do if you gave your hands and your heart completely over to him?
Do this right now: lay your hands palms up in your lap, and pray for God to use them for his purposes. May the work of your hands be pleasing to the Lord this day and may they be anointed with love always.