17. Empty Hands

“Watching & Waiting” Meditations: 17. Empty Hands

Ex 4:2  “What is that in your hand?”

How many sermons have you heard on this verse? It comes from that famous conversation between the Lord and Moses at the burning bush. Moses has covered the intellectual bases with his questions and come to the point where he basically says, what if they just won’t listen to me or believe me? God’s answer is not to give him further intellectual ammunition, but instead He is going to do something miraculous with Moses’ staff, so He asks him to identify what it is he is holding.

Now when we take this verse, it doesn’t make it any the less poignant but in respect of prayer and watching and waiting it changes slightly. In respect of prayer, I believe my initial answer is, “Nothing Lord, I come with empty hands. Of myself I have nothing meaningful to contribute to this conversation. Before I utter a word, you know what it’s going to be. I know you changed Moses’ staff into a snake, but I don’t know what you want to transform in me as I come to you. I realise meaningful prayer is that inspired by you (Eph 6:18) so I need you to direct my eyes and open my ears and generally inspire me. If you don’t, I might as well give up for all I have is words. As I lift my hands to praise you (Psa 134:2), see them empty and clean – and available.”

Sometimes that honesty and integrity is the best we can hope for. Lord, I’ve got nothing. I’m empty, I recognise that all my endeavours, as good as they were at the time, leave me today with nothing. There is a precious reality here that visionaries need to be aware of. I have testified previously of the many and varied experiences that I have had in life. I have no question that the hand of the Lord was on me, drew me to Himself, saved me, filled me, used me, took me abroad, gave me experiences I had never dreamed of.

Yes, I have seen people saved, healed, spoken to prophetically but as far as my life and my experiences today are concerned, this is a new day and in the same way that the manna in the wilderness only lasted for one day except the day before the sabbath, so all those past experiences count for little because today I have to know Him afresh, today I have to receive from Him afresh, receive grace, receive guidance, receive protection for this is ‘the Day of the Lord’, a new day that has never been before, and the grace I need for today is to meet the needs of this day, not yesterday or tomorrow, but this day.

So I come with open, empty hands – and memories. Oh yes, don’t hear me saying the past was a waste, it wasn’t. Don’t hear me say that all those memories, all those experiences were a waste, they weren’t, they were the gift of the Lord on those days and now today they are a resource that I can use to remind myself of His goodness. When we pray, we thank, not only for today but all the good yesterdays, the days when He turned up with His grace and His guidance and His protection.

Isaiah cried, “To the Law and the testimony.” (Isa 8:20 AV) In Revelation 12 John heard of the believers, They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Rev 12:11) Testimony – bearing witness to what God has done – is good. It strengthens our resolve, helps us stand in the face of the lies of the enemy, and provides food for thought for the seeker. BUT! But testimony, as good as it is, is not what holds me, sustains me, guides and directs me, empowers me, today. It is Him. We’ve said it before and we’ll no doubt say it again.

I recently came across a beautiful little comment in one of my devotional readings. It was about a group of nuns and the writer wrote, “Their vocation is not their career. Their vocation is Jesus. And the different jobs and roles along the way are simply assignments, one not necessarily more important than the others. Each assignment is merely an opportunity for them to say yes to him.” Isn’t that lovely. Jesus is their central focus and everything else flows from that. So, perhaps like them, here I stand before Him today, with empty hands and I ask Him to put them to whatever use He can today.

But then I came across another comment about the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday which I also found helpful: “Holy Saturday seems to describe the place in which many of us live our lives waiting for God to speak. We know that Jesus died for us yesterday. We trust that there may be miracles tomorrow. But what of today, the eternal Sabbath when heaven is silent?” The focus of that comment was on the silence of the Saturday and all the wonderings that must have been in the minds of the disciples, but it is also a good picture of what each day is really like. As we’ve been saying, we have the memories of the yesterdays that were so wonderful, and perhaps also something similar to the memory of yesterday that was Good Friday and all its awfulness, and we wonder about what will come tomorrow. But tomorrow is not the issue, today is. How we handle today. Will we grab for things all around ourselves, put things into our hands that will make us busy, or will we stand before the Lord with open, empty hands and say, Lord, will you show me what these hands should be doing today, will you equip me with the ‘tools’ I will need for this day? Perhaps there are things we know we’ve got to be doing – looking after the family, performing the job, so it’s not a ‘blank-sheet day’. So then it becomes, “Lord, will you bless these hands that they may bless others.” Yes? 

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