Human history, our history is a history of violence. There has not been a time since our inception, except for a very brief moment in our inauguration that there has not been violence. From the first act of disobedience in paradise, to the first murder as a result of sibling rivalry, violence has plagued our existence.
I guess I am struck to my very being at how much our world is littered with such atrocities and violence. It is something I am aware of that our own country might be forgetting. I think maybe we become accustomed to, and also without realization, be involved in.
I am aware also of G-ds view on violence and the apathy towards its nature. We turn our heads as if to say;"I never saw anything, heard anything or did anything.". Such is the sin of my generation, and G-d responds loudly and clearly in the 11th Psalm verse 5:"The L-rd tests the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence." To the leaders who do not justice He says in Ps. 58;"Do you indeed decree what is right, you mighty lords(gods)? Do you judge the children of men uprightly? No!, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence."
One of the most frequently used words to describe violence in the Hebrew bible(O.T.) is the word 'hamas". It means wrong doing; unjust gain; cruelty; violence and injustice towards someone wrongly.
The unfortunate response of mankind has always been against the grain of G-ds plan and instruction, but G-ds mercy is good and patient and still calls out for man to bow to His desire. We have witnessed the testimony of times gone by as well as present times, the abuses of religious causes in the name of G-d and Christ to exact allegiance. We have the recorded history of non religious regimes of chaos devoted to the mass destruction of genocide for dominance. We would rightly carry the title of a planet titled "the planet of hamas."
So how can we learn to curb this insatiable thirst for blood and vengeance and greed which spells out death? Are there any established measures that would ensure proper behavior towards others?
The apostle Paul had some instruction for a young pastor living in a time similar to ours. The young man was Timothy, a disciple and companion of Pauls'. From the tone of the first letter of to Timothy, we can hear an urgency in Pauls' compulsion towards this young man. Timothy was a man on the brink of leaving his ministerial position because of pressures that surrounded him and his pastorate.
Paul however, a follower and imitator of his Messiah and Lord gave fantastic, practical and divine measures for living rightly in this world. These specific instructions which I want to concentrate on are given generally to all and then specifically to the men. "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intersessions, and thanksgivings, be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."(1 Timothy 2:1-2)
The first key towards a peaceful life amidst the turmoil is prayer. Prayer can fee up the mid to concentrate on G-d, his people and His desire, while leaving selfish desires by the roadside. This form of active worship involves different aspect of prayer, such as petitioning, prostrating before a holy G-d; interceding on behalf of another and giving thanks. Imagine just concentrating on these aspects and the outcome of not ceasing to pray. We would only have time to fold our hands or lift them in prayer.
The second key to abdicating violent behavior among ourselves and worshiping is given in v. 8" I desire then that in very place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;....". Notice that this command is given to the men; why? Men by nature, are and have always been violent. Our hands have left a stain of blood that taints the color of our world. Paul commissions the men, who have such a strong tendency towards acting out in such ways to curb there appetite for quarreling and disputing towards the actions of men born of G-d.
Paul directs their hands away from clenching fists to hands that are "lifted up". These hands are ready for the purpose of distributing blessings, praises, and deeds of goodness.
The conduct of men born of the Spirit is only seen in lives of being in worship. This is a call to believing men to lift up in surrender, praise and adoration, reverence and recognition of G-ds holiness. These hands are empty, cleansed and ready for holy work.
Paul throws in a contrast between two different types of hands. He uses a very specific word for "holy" in connection with hands. It is the word "hoseous"; meaning that which is distinctly separated for G-ds ways from that which is either directly against G-ds ways or just the worldly ways. The opposite of "hoseous keiros"; holy hands is "keiros horgay"; hands of wrath. These hands set apart for holy work are hands that are without anger and quarreling. The normal idea of holy in the Hebrew is the word kodesh, and it is the separation of something or someone; the sacred from the mundane. Things, people and acts are set aside as holy and separate from something, but this Hoseous is a holiness set against something in contrast to something. Thus this act of hands in worship is a contrasting action, a kind of light against the darkness.
A beautiful picture of this way or practical outgrowth of a life given to The Master can be vividly seen in the morning sabbath service of the synagogue.
Toward the middle of the service men go up(if there is a minion), and open the ark in the front of the sanctuary. Once open a delegated person reaches inside to take out the scroll of the Torah. Both hands clasp the handles and rest it upon the right shoulder. Turned toward the congregation after raising it up in the air up to G-d Almighty, a blessing is spoken consecrating the moment for pure worship toward the only true G-d. Then a procession of the Torah goes around the congregation where any individual can touch the bible, or their hand and kiss it in reverence to the Holy Word of G-d.
If we can take the picture of this scene and imbue it to the instruction from Paul to Timothy, we can share in a kind of empty handed fellowship with hands not raised in rebellion but in reverence to G-d and devoted to His Shalom.
May we all be men, people, a worshiping community ready to spill out G-ds blessings upon people with hands made for peaceful worship and praise, in good standing with our Lord and with our neighbor as well.
May G-d bless the hands that bless His Holy Name and His Son Jesus the Messiah. Amen