The Father’s hand
David E. West, Leicester
Though God is Spirit, ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’, John 4. 24, nevertheless, sometimes scripture speaks of Him in human terms to describe some of His actions and ways, so that men can understand. This is known technically as ‘anthropomorphism’ and may be defined as ‘the attributing of human form or personality to God’. 1 However, whilst ‘anthropomorphism’ can serve in helpful ways to a better understanding of God’s attributes, it is most important not to interpret these human characteristics to mean that God the Father exists in human form.
Although on several occasions, God is referred to as having hand(s), e.g., ‘And the Lord said unto Moses . . . the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them’, Exod. 7. 1, 5; ‘He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms: the Lord hath given a commandment against the merchant city [Zidon], to destroy the strong holds thereof’, Isa. 23. 11, nevertheless, there is only one direct reference to ‘my Father’s hand’ in the word of God.
The context of these words was the division that took place among the Jews as a result of Christ’s discourse on the Good Shepherd. This was followed on the occasion of the Feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem when the Jews came ‘round about him, and said unto him . . . If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly’, John 10. 24.
The response of the Lord Jesus was to continue to speak of ‘my sheep’. Those who came to challenge Him were not His sheep, as He said, ‘ye believe not’, v. 26. However, as to His sheep, the Lord said, ‘and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand’, John 10. 28. This would be better read, ‘none shall pluck them’ – the words are to be taken as including every spiritual foe; it applies to either men or demons. No man, however persuasive in his argument or mighty in rank or power, no demon with all his cunning and allurements will be able to pluck them out of Christ’s hand. To ‘pluck’ suggests ‘to rob’, ‘to seize and bear away’, as a robber does his prey. There is no power that can snatch a sheep from His grasp.
The passage continues, ‘My Father, which gave them me’ – they are my Father’s gifts – ‘is greater than all’, 2 i.e., is more powerful than all. In the context, He is greater than all the enemies who would seek to snatch away the sheep; ‘and no man [i.e., none] is able’ – has the power – ‘to pluck them out of my Father’s hand’. The power of the Father to keep the sheep is not here contrasted with the power of the Son, but it is simply stated that the Son is not alone or by Himself in the protection of the sheep. Surely this is an echo of previous discourses in which the Son asserts that He does nothing, judges no one, says nothing, teaches nothing, witnesses nothing, without or apart from the Father. Particularly in that of preserving the true sheep, they work together.
Thus, the Lord Jesus adds, ‘I and my Father are one’, John 10. 30; this primarily means one in the exercise of divine power in the protection of the sheep. How thankful we should be for the truth of the eternal security of the believer!