Friday, June 2, 2017

The Hand of God

Copyright © Edward Riojas

The Fall screwed up everything. There aren’t words or time enough to delineate the rot and destruction brought on by one foolish act. We could blame Adam and we often do, but we have done our worst to pile on foolishness upon foolishness of our own making. If we are honest with ourselves, Adam probably pales by comparison.

One result of the Fall is that we cannot look at the face of God The Father and live. Those who tried ended up as toast. Sure, we saw the face of His Son, and manifestations of The Spirit were visible, but One was cloaked in His manhood and the Other was granted man to see. The Father’s face is off limits this side of heaven.

Scripture bears this out. Moses asked an impossible thing in Exodus 33:

    "18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
    19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

    21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."

And the prophet, Job, relished the heavenly day in Job 19:

     “25 I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

It is therefore vexing when big names in art ignored the rule and attempted to depict The Father. Dürer did it. So did Cranach, Campin, Murillo, Masaccio and others. While all of them handled the modelling of the figure in their usual masterly fashion, none of them captured the omnipotence and majesty of the Person. In this, they failed miserably; each of the depictions simply looks like an old man or a missing member of ZZ Top.

And, of course, none of the images remotely comes close to killing the viewer.
"The Hand of the Father in Blessing."
Copyright © Edward Riojas

But there is a better alternative found in Christian symbolism. The Hand of God, set in front of a tri-radiant nimbus, has been used for centuries as a visual for The Father. It denies the viewer a peek at God’s face, and echoes the Word of the Lord Himself in the Exodus account: “I will ... cover you with my hand until I have passed by.”

It is more than enough to be covered by His hand. It is love beyond the telling to be blessed by the same. And by the same, awe and terror come, as even Pharaoh’s magicians admitted, “This is the finger of God.”

We needn’t feel slighted by getting only this tiny peek at The Father, for as Christ Himself proclaimed, “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The Christian may relish being held in the palm of His hand. Seeing the face of God, on the other hand, can wait until a more glorious day.

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