Thousands of years ago the Prophet Samuel anointed a young man named Saul to be the first King of Israel. In his initial instructions to Saul, Samuel refers to Saul doing what his hand finds to do. I want to explore that instruction with you today.
“The Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with the group of prophets; and you will be transformed into a different person. When these signs have come, do whatever your hand finds to do (as the occasion demands), for God is with you.” 1Samuel 10:6,7
That expression, about what our hands find to do, is also given in the writings of King Solomon.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work, thought, knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (the grave), to which you are going.” Ecclesiastes 9:10
In life there are things that come to hand. Around us are people, situations and resources that are ‘at hand’, or close by. Those things might seem insignificant and of little value, but God seems to put emphasis on those things that He has placed around you.
If you are living in a village in the mountains you can’t rise in the morning and govern the nation. You can only engage in things of the village. If you are stuck in the suburbs you can’t get up and do farming things. If you are stuck in an office you can’t do things of the theatre. Each day you have a setting and a set of things around you.
Your setting might change from day to day, but each setting is what is ‘at hand’ for that day.
We can interpret Solomon’s wise observation about what our hand finds to do (from Ecclesiastes) to mean, ‘be diligent’. Solomon had much to say about diligence in his book of Proverbs.
“A slack hand leads to poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Proverbs 10:4
“The hand of the diligent will bear rule: but the slothful will be under tribute.” Proverbs 12:24
But there is another dimension to this ‘at hand’ language. It suggests those things that God puts into our life, whether we like it or not, that is ‘at hand’ and which we are supposed to engage with.
We can easily be distracted with what we don’t have, thinking that ‘if only’ we had more funds, or a bigger car, or better equipment we could do this or that. But God seems to want us to respect what we have, what He has given us.
When God called Moses to go back to Egypt and confront Pharaoh, demanding that Pharaoh let God’s people go, Moses struggled with the calling. As Moses argued with God, God asked him, “What is in your hand?” Moses would have looked at his hand and seen the shepherd’s stick he was holding.
That stick was just a tool of his trade. All shepherds carried along a stick for working with the sheep. It was just a lump of wood, a stick, a common hand tool. At 80 years of age it probably came in handy for walking and climbing too.
God took that commonplace item and made it the source of miracles, when it struck water to turn it to blood, was stretched over water to open the sea or struck onto a rock to bring out water.
“Moses said, What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? They may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ And the LORD asked him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ ‘A staff,’ he replied. The Lord said, ’Throw it on the ground’. So Moses threw it on the ground, and it became a snake, and he ran from it. The Lord then said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand and grab it by the tail’. So he reached out his hand and caught the snake, and it turned back into a staff in his hand.” Exodus 4:1-4
Moses would never have dreamed that that a common item from his toolkit, like a tradesman’s spanner or hammer, was going to be so miraculously significant.
So, what is in your hand? What common, everyday things are a part of your world today that God wants you to use with all your might?
It’s not that they are all going to become miracle power-tools, but that God wants you to respect them and to deal diligently with what this day holds, with whatever limited resources you have at hand.
Take Joseph as an example. He was just a youth when his brothers, who hated him, sold him as a slave into Egypt. There he was bought by a military offical and sent to do servant chores around the house. Instead of being resentful and sullen, Joseph engaged with his new challenge diligently and faithfully, attending to what was ‘at hand’. As a result he was promoted and became head of the household.
Joseph was then lied about and ended up in prison, where he was expected to serve other prisoners. Once again Joseph didn’t lament what he didn’t have, but he went about doing the best he could with what he did have, in the unwanted situation he was in. As a result he was elevated to be in charge of the prisoners, while still a prisoner himself. That then led to him becoming the second highest ruler in the land.
But what would have happened if Joseph was slack at hand, resentful and filled with wishful thinking about what he would rather have had?
So the Bible references to ‘whatever your hand finds to do’ speak to us about being diligent with what we have, but also accepting what we have and working with that as effectively as we can. Remember that what you are doing is not to please yourself, or just to serve those who expect you to achieve things for them, but it is for the Lord.
“Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men.” Colossians 3:23