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Paul Luckraft reviews 'The Hollow of His Hand: Finding How God Holds Us' by Stephen Bishop (2021)
Stephen Bishop's latest book follows his usual format of many short chapters on a common theme, providing material for daily devotions or group discussion. In this book the theme is God's Hand, with the subtitle 'Finding how God holds us'.

God's hand in creation
The title itself comes from Isaiah 40:12, where the prophet asks "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?" What we cannot do with our hands, our mighty God has done with his.

The first section, entitled Creation, picks up this theme. There are seven chapters (as there are in all four sections), which ask us to consider God's hand at work around us. All that God has made declares his glory. When we see the world around us, including the skies and the heavens beyond, do we see the work of God's hands (Ps 19:1)?

Each of the 28 chapters ends with four questions for further reflection, something which the author has made a feature of all his recent books. These questions can be used either for personal meditation or as a catalyst for debate with others.

The second section, Control, examines how God's hand intervenes on our behalf, and this is balanced with the next section, Correction, which reminds us that God's hand is also used to discipline us. His hand can turn against us, and be used to bring affliction and punishment, just as ours can (or used to be allowed to!).

The hands of Jesus
After three sections which focus entirely on texts from the Old Testament, the seven chapters of the final part are all based on the New — in fact Luke's Gospel. Picking up Jesus' invitation to 'Look at my hands'(Luke 24:39), we see how God's hand was manifest in how Jesus used his hands. Jesus' miracles often involved his hands, whether for healing, showing mercy, raising a child from death or multiplying loaves and fishes to feed the hungry

Throughout the book, Stephen has chosen his examples carefully and explains them in a considerate and thought-provoking manner. He also, as always, provides many real-life examples to back up his main points, many of which resonate with our Covid times.

A marvellous creation
At first it may seem surprising that there are so many references in Scripture to God's hands. But on second thoughts it's perhaps not so remarkable, given the Hebraic liking for anthropomorphisms as a means of illustrating the nature and character of God through concrete, physical forms. It is also a reminder that we are made in his image and that we also have the capacity to touch and feel. Our ability to do so much with our hands is quite remarkable, whether in gentleness or strength, from the most delicate of movements to the most powerful of actions.

The hand is indeed a marvellous creation, as Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon and anatomist spells out in his classic text, 'The Hand: Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments as Evincing Design'.He declares the human hand to be the most perfect creation in our body (though others might argue for the eye), offering proof of a Creator's careful design.

Perhaps God looked at his own 'hands' and what he could do through them when deciding how to make us in his image. Whatever we might speculate on this, Stephen is right to draw his book to a close by exhorting us to make an appropriate and worshipful response to what God has achieved through his handiwork.

"I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you" (Ps 143: 5-6).

'The Hollow of His Hand' (134 pp) is published by Bible-Bish-Books, and is available from Amazon.

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