His good hand sustains me, lovingly shading me daily, cupping my soul and holding me, his Spirit breeze moving gently, directing me into the paths of his choosing. He never gets tired, he never gives up on me, sheltering me from burning heat, shielding me from poisoned darts, grabbing my hand when I stumble so that I don’t fall down.
This is his hand of mercy, this is his hand of power, this is the hand that healed the sick, chased away blindness, gently blessed the little ones, and took the nails for me.
Spending hundreds of hours in the process of translating the Psalms into Nyarafolo taught me far more than I ever imagined it would. Sometimes it allowed me to suddenly realize the power of the original meaning of the metaphors, especially since most of them are natural for Nyarafolos in a way they are not for us Westerners.
Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible talks about God’s “right” hand? In cultures that have come to accept left-handedness as just as acceptable as right-handedness. the difference that is made by a reference to a “right” hand is lost. But in many cultures around the world, the right hand is seen as the one that is reserved for good actions; the left is for doing “dirty work”. For instance, in northern Côte d’Ivoire the right hand is to be used for eating, and for handing something to someone. The left hand is reserved for wiping your nose or other dirty body parts. Handing money to a vegetable seller with your left hand is an insult unless you apologize for the action. (Maybe your other arm is carrying heavy baggage. I found myself apologizing for my left hand at cash registers here in the U.S. when my right hand was occupied, confusing the cashiers!)
In the context of Scripture written in the Hebrew culture, the right hand is also the “good hand,” the hand of righteous action. It is the hand of righteous power for the king or leader, and the follower’s right hand is also their hand to be used for doing good. Use this information to interpret these verses:
You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. (Ps. 18:35 NIV)
4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds. (Ps. 45:4 NIV)
Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness. (Ps. 48:10 NIV)
Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. (Ps. 60:5 NIV)
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. (Ps. 63:8 NIV)
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. (Ps. 73:23 NIV)
The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; (Ps. 121:5 NIV)
And yes, he is our shade! When you live in a hot climate with a sun that literally beats down on you, shade is a common metaphor for “protection.” You can see in the featured photo that sheep in West Africa look for shade, lining up in a narrow swath to survive the heat. With the LORD himself the protection (shade) at my right hand, he is making sure that I can keep doing good, protecting me so that I can be active in the right ways. (And you can see in those last two words that “right” has certain key connotations of correctness in English too!)
Let us be deeply grateful for the loving, sustaining grip of our God, and the way that he acts for justice and does all that is necessary to empower us to do the same!