Thursday, April 13, 2017

High hand, or high-handed?

Today we reach a milestone - 1,500 posts on this blog! That's something to celebrate, much like winning a big poker tournament.

If you want to win the tournament, you'll probably need to have the highest hand most of the time. If you win a pot with a royal flush, that's the highest hand of all.

But there's another kind of "high hand" that we're thinking about right now - and so are observing Christians and Jews. It's this one....

And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the 15th day of the first month; on the morrow after the Passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians. - Numbers 33:3 (KJV)

It's easy to crack poker jokes about what this "high hand" might have been. A full house? Nope; the Israelites left their homes empty. A straight? Well, maybe - but they wandered around to get to the Red Sea.

But to be serious, we're in a season picturing the time when Israel was allowed to leave Egypt and head for the promised land. Other Bible translations say they went out "with boldness" or "defiantly." The English Standard Version says "triumphantly" - but the victory was only partially their doing.

The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. - Exodus  12:13

These were instructions from God. The Israelites did their part, marking homes with blood from sacrificed animals. Then God did His - striking dead the firstborn of all Egypt, and causing such anguish that the Egyptians were happy to get rid of a people which had been slaves.

Yet in our time, a third definition of "high hand" has developed. "Arrogant or arbitrary in manner" is how our hardbound dictionary defined someone who is "high-handed." That is something God does not want to see - even if you have a high hand at the table:

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the forward mouth, do I hate. - Proverbs 8:13 (KJV)

Arrogance is linked here to pride. God wants your attitude to be exactly the opposite, when you play poker and live your life....

But he gives us more grace. This is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." - James 4:6

Some believers go so far as to eat unleavened bread (such as matzo or crackers) for seven days - what some call the "bread of humility."

So we're really celebrating a seven-day Biblical feast, more than we are 1,500 blog posts. But we're trying to do so with the right kind of "high hand" - thankful for God providing triumphs in our lives, from poker pots to victory over stubborn sins. We humbly thank all of you who take time to read these posts, and invite you to comment on where you're reading and what we can do better.

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