I am fairly sure I was born righthanded, but when I was three, and again at six, I broke my right arm. Thus, I learned to use my left hand to write and to throw, but I swing a bat and a golf club righthanded and play a lefthanded guitar. However, I am a bit ambidextrous when it comes to eating or playing tennis. I can do both with either hand.
In most societies, early in history, the right hand was considered dominant and preferable. There was a time, not that long ago, in our culture where kids who showed a propensity to use their left hands were instructed to learn how to use their right hands for such things as writing and cutting with scissors. And in the Scriptures, “right hand” is used 137 times, over 50 of which refer to the hand of God. It typically symbolizes his power and authority.
So I was struck by this passage in Revelation recently:
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feetas though dead. Then he placed his right hand on meand said:“Do not be afraid.I am the First and the Last.I am the Living One; I was dead,and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (1:12-18)
The “son of man” is the risen Jesus. Note that in his right hand he held seven stars, which likely represents the heavens. As Colossians 1:15-20 notes, creation came to be through Jesus and it is he who holds it together. Now consider how next Jesus uses his right hand. John was so stunned by his presence that he says he fell down before him as dead. While he was lying prostrate, Jesus put his right hand on him to comfort him. The same right hand that holds the universe also comforts John when he was overwhelmed with fear.
This is the paradox of the Lord. He is far above all we could ever imagine, and he is powerful beyond comprehension. Yet, he is kind and compassionate. When John is trembling in his awesome and indescribable presence, he is comforting and reassuring him. “Do not be afraid.” Instead of using his power to terrify, he reassures us by his power. He tells John he is in control of death, and thus of life. With that kind of power on our side, there is no need to be afraid.
There are still many preachers who proclaim we need to dread the power of the Lord, some of whom were on campus recently. This is true of those who refuse until their dying breath to believe, but it is untrue for those who are open to him or follow him. Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-2). However, I fear that many of us still have this image of a wrathful God who just sits in heaven, leaning forward, just waiting to strike us down when we get out of line. We have trouble conceiving overwhelming power and deep compassion in the same person, let alone in God.
But, yet, there it is in the Word that the Lord is both all-powerful and deeply compassionate. I can hardly fathom it, but I am going to accept it and embrace this truth, particularly at this point in time. With all the upheaval in our lives, it is scary and he knows that. So imagine this: You are sitting on your couch watching the news or reading online about all that is happening right now—COVID spread and deaths, rioting, injustice, political craziness, hurricanes, wars, locust hordes, and famines. You feel the anxiety rising within you. Then you feel a hand on your shoulder and hear the words, “Don’t be afraid. I am in control of the entire universe.”
I think John let out a deep sigh of relief at the touch of that right hand. I think we can do the same.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references are from The New International Version, 2011.