Isaiah 40:28-31 and Acts 17:22-31
(Quoted scripture is New International Version)
He’s got the whole world in His hands: Do you believe it? Do you believe God created and sustains everything we know, everything we experience? Do you believe that God holds us in the palm of his hand?
Albert Einstein considered himself irreligious in the sense that he rejected all dogmatic theology; miracles, eternal life or prayer. He did not believe that God was in any sense personal, and was a strict determinist (a philosophy that for everything that happens, the conditions exist that could cause nothing else, cause and effect).
But even he was awed by the immensity of it all. Einstein never attended a worship service, however, Einstein thought of himself as religious in the sense of humility and awe at the mystery, rationality and complexity of the universe. He once said, “The eternal mystery of the world is comprehensibility.” In other words, we cannot understand what God has done, is doing, or will do. For Einstein, the mysterious book of nature bore witness to some superior intelligence. About a year before he died he wrote in a letter that he understood himself to be a “deeply religious unbeliever.”
The song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, began as an African American spiritual from the slave fields of the American south, first published in 1927. It hit number one on the pop charts in 1958, when it was recorded by an English singer Laurie London.
When Joe and I do services in nursing homes, it’s one of the residents’ favorites. Just like the American slave, the people in nursing homes are looking for the assurance that even though they are not in control of their life, someone is. We do it in an upbeat tempo, which gets the residents clapping and tapping their toes.
I really like Rodin’s sculpture, “The Hand of God”. God’s hand is massive and strong; there is a sense in which it is that hand which has ultimate control. The creatures being formed by the hand of God are fluid; it looks as though this human life shifts and moves within the hand of God and as it does, the hand which holds this man and woman, adjusts and shapes it as the creature shapes itself. It is a hand, strong and sensitive, working with a lump of clay, fashioning a man and woman out of the inordinate, chaotic mass. As believers, we understand God’s creative activity is to bring order – imaginative, beautiful order – out of chaos. He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, shaping you and shaping me as we go through life.
Isaiah 40:12, 26, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”—“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens; Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”
When I gaze up at the sky, I am awed to think that the prophet Isaiah, the disciples and even Jesus gazed up to see the same stars, the same moon. I wonder if Jesus was awed by what he had created, you know to see it from a human point of view, from this side of the tapestry.
I believe that deep within our very core is a longing for something greater than ourselves. It is when humans come to the understanding that there is a God who is in control, and we do not have to be, that there is a sigh of relief that any mess we’ve made of our lives, God can shape into something beautiful. This belief helps people with addictions to overcome: the belief that there is a ‘higher power,’ the assurance that there is someone who holds our life and the world in His hands.
The Apostle Paul knew this, but the Greek philosophers were still debating. While Paul is waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him in Athens, he notices a city full of idols, statues to the many Greek gods. At first he addresses the presence of the many Greek gods with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks in the synagogue and in the marketplace. Then the Greek philosophers invite him to discuss these things on the outcropping of rock, overlooking the Acropolis in Athens, known as the Areopagus. There is a saying, ‘You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar.’ I think this is what Paul does here.
Acts 17:22-25, “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with the inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”
Paul goes on to explain that we are all one human race which God has created from one man and one woman. Acts 17:28, “For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.” These Greek philosophers would know the works of the pagan poets; Paul uses this knowledge to point out that the idea of One God has already been formed in the minds of the great Greek thinkers.
I chose this theme, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, because it seems as if our country and our world are in a chaotic mess, and I want to assure you that God is in control. Yes, God has given human beings free will to mess things up in their own lives and in our world, but ultimately, God holds the world and our lives in His hands.
The Pharisee Saul had really messed things up, but when he surrendered his life to Jesus, Jesus forgave him and began to use him as the Apostle Paul. God made something beautiful out of a messed-up life.
Do not be discouraged if you or someone you love has messed things up. Jesus, the resurrected Son of God and the Savior of the world wants to make something beautiful out of our chaos. Read the Bible, God’s 66 love letters. Surrender your life to God’s control. Choose the sigh of relief that you do not have to be in control, give up the frustration that comes with the belief that you are.
God has a plan for each of us and He Holds the Whole World in His Hands.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut