Stretch Forth Thine Hand
These words, used as a caption for this sermon, are the words used by Jesus to the man with the withered hand.
How striking is the argument of Jesus in this passage concerning the value of a man. These Pharisees would admit the value of a sheep and pull it from a pit on the Sabbath day, but for Jesus to do this healing work on the Sabbath day is terrific in their cross-eyed, legally focused way of looking at things. To the earth crowd it is great to burn the midnight oil to gain knowledge and pass examinations, but it is rank fanaticism to spend an hour in prayer; it is worth a hero’s medal when a man exposes himself to death to put out a burning building, but to tell father and mother goodbye and sail across the deep to give the light to souls that sit in darkness, that is fanaticism. The earth crowd can see the sense in giving thousands of dollars to take the children of the slums into the sunshine and the spiritual crowd see the sense in that too, but if we want thousands of dollars to bring to darkened lives the sunshine of Jesus, this is a need that has no call on the millions that are spent yearly by the earth crowd. My how some of the earth crowd did howl when they found out, at least one millionaire had seen the value of a human soul and Brother William Borden died and left a million dollars just to help men to salvation. There are millions of withered hands stretching up toward Jesus today, but oh, where are the millions of dollars and the sacrificing souls who will carry the Gospel of life to these, who never heard the name of Jesus. All other work is important, but this work must be done. Telling a soul about Jesus should be the first work of every Christian; with most it is only an occasional work and with very, very many it is not even a once-a-year task; we certainly need the old-time fire to take the drooping crowd of Christians in our day and turn them into soul savers with a passion for the lost. We must get the hunger that is in the heart of Jesus for lost souls, in order to put soul saving in its proper place, namely; ahead of saving sheep, ahead of saving money, ahead of saving property, ahead of even saving physical life, ahead of every other activity. As soon as Peter had received the Spirit’s fullness he was at once commanding withered souls to stretch forth their hands and the whole crowd of filled ones went everywhere preaching the Gospel.
“Far and near the fields are teeming
With the sheaves of ripened grain,
Far and near their gold is gleaming,
O’er the sunny slope and plain
Lord of harvests, send forth reapers,
Send them now, to Thee we cry.
Send them forth the sheaves to gather,
Ere the harvest time pass by.”
“What Will Stir?”
The very withered hands about us, the very tongues that don’t speak the word of Jesus, the very eyes that shed no tears from His joy, the very bodies before us holding no hope of redemption, the souls behind the faces that we see, should cry aloud to us if we have got the vision that a soul is more valuable than a sheep. The very fact that we know how these withered ones can be made whole should give us almost stuttering eagerness to tell salvation’s story. Compassion, compassion, oh! the compassion of Jesus for the lost. Are you letting some little feeling of timidity hold you back? Are you afraid you will be criticized for telling the story in an unconventional manner? Oh! burst past these little barriers of the flesh, these little mock affairs put up by the Pharisees of our time, and in the name of Jesus put the cup of love to dying lips. I find many people appealing for power to do God’s service and many times I detect this: that they are appealing for power to become some big one some mighty worker, instead of by faith taking the compassion of Jesus and going under the power of this compassion after souls that are lost.
No group of Pharisees could stand between Jesus and that withered hand, trying to restrain Him with their senseless customs and laws. Men of all times who have been filled with the Holy Ghost, have suddenly received this same boldness to over-ride customs and formalities and hear me! It was not because they despised customs or formalities, it was because there were perishing souls out there in the dark and these things were standing between. Have you ever seen a homely scene like this on the farm. A cow steps back to the middle of a corral and suddenly go through the fence, probably dragging a part of it on her horns? It was not because she had gone stark mad, or because she despised the fence, but because her new-born calf was crying across the field and a fence which hitherto could have held her must fly to pieces because it is between her and the object to her compassion. The fire will flow in your life, when you get a vision of a lost world and the mighty Christ that alone can save, you will not allow any of the pleadings of your flesh, nor any swelling ambitions of a carnal life to stand between this pitiful, helpless, Christless, dying, hell-bound throng and a Saviour who can save them. The flesh will go down before your compassion filled soul, like the fence went down before the mother-love of that cow. You will see a new meaning to the Scripture about reckoning yourself to be dead indeed unto sin. Paul’s flesh never found pity at his hands from the moment he got the vision; there was no more love of ease, the passion had seized him and whether in ship-wreck or under the lash, or in prison, the love of Christ constrained him, the passion for souls pulled him on. Maybe you have been many times at a consecration service and you truly gave up, but you found you had taken nothing on—Oh! beloved, it is drinking in this compassion in the fullness of the Holy Spirit that keeps your life a loving sacrifice and constantly burning flame. Many men have experienced emotional thrills of power, but the souls that live in the full orbed glow of His mighty presence are the souls that have drunk deep of His compassion and have seen that men are actually, really dying and going to hell and they are transfigured in the great luxury of giving these perishing ones the story of Jesus. When you have got this fire and your life is burning with his passion, perhaps someone could write of you as Lord Radstock wrote of Dr. Baedeker in Russia: In common with thousands of others, I thank the Lord for His grace as seen in dear Baedeker. From the day he came to the Lord in 1866, to the day of his home-call, he was a lovely witness for Christ. As soon as the glorious news came to him he began to make it known to others; and when his own professional work was done, in spite of very feeble health, he visited the neighboring villages to spread the glad tidings. Though so feeble that he sometimes even fainted on the way, he pushed on “faint yet pursuing.”
His first Christmas holidays he spent in Bethnal Green, London, serving his Lord among the poorest.
His labours “in journeys oft,” especially crossing Siberia, often galloping in carts without springs, with a weak heart and delicate spine and lungs, were an example of the “faith that worketh by love.” And he did not trust in vain. Starting on long and arduous journeys, which to the natural eye seemed utterly beyond his strength, yet “his bow abode in strength.” It was true of him, “this one thing I do,” I press forward toward the mark.
Many hundreds of suffering Stundists, and tens of thousands of others, in Russia, Germany, Switzerland, and other lands, will call him blessed, for he trusted and glorified the Blessed One!
“It Is Withered”
Let the Holy Spirit constantly remind us that the…ones who are not saved have withered hands. You will sometimes wonder and be impatient and critical because they will not believe and will not try to believe, but remember their hands are withered, yes, their souls can enjoy a great concert, can feast upon art and the landscape, but they cannot grip God, they can even handle large deals and push through large enterprises, but they cannot handle the word of life, they cannot reach and grasp the bread of life: as the rough crowd says, they may reach and grab the “dope sheet” and know every horse on the race track and know his record, they can grab for a paper and quickly turn to the baseball score, but these withered hands cannot turn the pages of God’s Word and find the luscious morsels of food. They can figure with a sharp pencil the profits of this life, but they cannot figure the profit if they were to gain the whole world and lose their own soul. They can handle the test-tube and write down their findings concerning the combination of elements, but they cannot believe that the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, cleanses from all sin. They can adjust the lenses of a telescope and look into God’s heavens; they can tell you that the flames of the sun leap 250,000 miles into the air; they can tell you that you must push the moon back four times as far as it is from the earth today in order to just slip this immense sun between the earth and the moon; they can look through the darkness and see the light of far-away stars, not visible to the natural eye, but they cannot see how we can love Him whom we have not seen. These withered fingers can turn the pages of literature, but they cannot turn to the way of life so plainly shown in God’s wonderful Word. They can understand the plot, while the actor stalks upon the stage, but they cannot catch the meaning of that crimson flow as the Son of God hangs upon the cross, dying in the dark. Oh! beloved, never forget that these multitudes about us have withered hands in their souls. I admit that they can grasp the worth of this world and quickly see the value of a business situation, but their hands are withered to figure the value of their souls. Napoleon could see a kingdom worth fighting for, but not see the kingdom which Christ died to bring.
It becomes our delightful task to bring this delightful news to these withered handed ones; the news is this: Jesus can cause these souls to do exactly what in themselves they cannot do. This man with the withered hand said, “My trouble is this—I cannot stretch forth my hand” yet Jesus comes along and tells him to do just what he cannot do and under the command of Jesus and power of Jesus he finds himself able to do just what he thought he could not do. Here is glorious, mighty news, which it is our privilege to bring to the world with withered hands. The drinker said I cannot quit drinking, but Jesus said quit and he quit. There are the lying lips that said I cannot cease from lying, but Jesus said quit and he quit. Oh! beloved, it is not your grip, it is not the grip of withered hands, but the grip of God in the hand that was torn on Calvary that pulls us through:
“How oft at the touch of that nail-scarred palm,
My storm troubled soul has at once grown calm.
The tempest that surges I will not fear,
For how can I sink if that hand is near.”
Moses knew that his own hand was withered and that his own lips were dumb, but when God put fire in the bush, without consuming it, Moses took off his shoes and worshipped—He was in the presence of a hand that was not withered and Moses walked down to Egypt and up to a mighty king and told him to let that multitude of nearly a million souls go free. God had heard the cry of that withered multitude and was willing to put his hand upon Moses to bring them out. God hears the cry of the withered multitude today and Oh! if you will but consent to go to them with His life giving Word: if you will but consent to take His heart in yours as you go you can count upon all Heaven being behind you, you will not lack for power, you will not lack for words. Oh! hear Him say: “Lacked ye anything?” Sing like old Dr. Wilson who used to sing with the tears flowing down his cheeks:
“Give me Thy heart in mine,
Give me Thy heart in mine,
By Thy wonderful power
By Thy grace every hour,
Give me Thy heart in mine.”
And this heart makes a way where there is no way; this heart pushed past the Pharisee crowd and pushes past the dead, cold formal things of our day and rushes in with power to rebuke the devil and under the spell of the Holy Ghost see souls loosed and made free in Jesus’ name.
Again it was not Jacob that met Esau but rather Israel, the man who had been touched by the hand of God. God left the signs of His touch on him, for from the hour that God touched him he leaned on his staff, halting from the touch of God in his hip. Again, it was not Joshua who was mighty, but God, the Scripture says, “Clothed himself with Joshua,” in other words, God pulled him on like a fighter pulls on a glove—Joshua was only over the fist of God. Consecration is not repairing us but becoming a glove in which God puts His own working. Oh! open your heart this hour, humbly, sweetly to the compassion of Jesus, then you will sing:
“Once it was my working,
His it hence shall be,
Once I tried to use Him,
But now He uses me.”
But you say, “Lord I am all weakness,” all right, hear Him answer back: “Stretch forth Thy hand.” Beloved, weak as you are, let Him put His compassion in your heart and at His command let down the nets for a draught, for the seas are full of withered ones waiting for the coming of one with a heart of compassion to tell of His power to save.