The Forgiving Finger of God

One of the great difficulties for many to get beyond is the posture of viewing God as against us, accusing us, waiting in eager anticipation for our next stumble. God is viewed as endlessly shoving his finger in our faces, expressing his disappointment in (if not anger toward) how poorly we measure up.

It is more aligned with reality to see God as repeatedly using his finger to assist us, than to accuse us – to defend us, than to destroy us. God has always worked for the good of his people.

When the Hebrew nation suffered under the cruel slavery of the Egyptians, God raised up a leader in Moses, a leader to deliver his people from the yoke of enslavement. After observing a series of miraculous works done by Yahweh through Moses and his brother Aaron, even the Pharaoh’s magicians were forced to admit, “This is the finger of God” working on behalf of his people (Exodus 8:19, ESV).

After leaving enslavement in Egypt, when Moses led the Hebrews to the foot of Mount Sinai, Moses climbed the mountain, and there, the finger of God wrote the tables of testimony.

And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God. – Exodus 31:18, ESV

The LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written by the finger of God; and on them were all the words which the LORD had spoken with you at the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. – Deuteronomy 9:10, ESV

Moving to the time of Jesus, we see the finger of God cleansing those possessed of demons. The Pharisees accused Jesus of working by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. In response, Jesus made his renowned statements regarding Satan casting out Satan, and a kingdom divided against itself. He then said, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20, ESV).

But the most well-known incident involving the finger of God is that of the adultery accusation in John’s gospel. For those unfamiliar with the story, I’ll relate the core of it here:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. – John 8:3-9, ESV

Discussion abounds regarding what Jesus wrote in the ground each time he stooped, and while there is an element of curiosity regarding that, the greater issue is the involvement of that finger in the pardon of the woman standing before him. We know this is a trap for Jesus, and the woman was just a pawn in the game of the accusers.

Technically, the accusers are correct – that the Law does call for the death of the woman. But, curiously, it calls for the death of the man as well (Deuteronomy 22:22). Yet the man is conspicuously absent from this scene.

It is also commonly asserted that Jesus forgave the woman. Again, technically, he did not. He never spoke forgiveness to her, as he did to the woman who tended his feet as he dined with Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:48). Forgiveness may be implied, however, in his refusal to condemn her. The finger that wrote in the dirt is the finger of the same God who wrote the Law into the tablets of stone, a Law that called for the death of the adulterers. Yet when given the opportunity to execute that Law, the finger of God rescued the woman from judgment.

Throughout history, the finger of God has worked for humanity rather than against us. Be comforted in that fact.

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side — let Israel now say — if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 124:1-8, ESV

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon

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