Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Sometimes you need someone to take you by the hand. A year ago, when I first met Art, I remember sharing God’s word with him for the first time. And after we confessed our sins, walked through a devotion in God’s word and prayed, we got to the Lord’s Supper part. And I was faced with a small dillema: How do you communicate with someone who is hard of hearing and is also blind? You take him by the hand. And that’s what I did. I took his hand and shaped it so that he was holding out his hand. Then I placed Jesus’ body along with that bread in Art’s hand. And I stretched out his arm and then placed the chalice in Art’s hand. Art needed someone to take him by the hand in his every day life. But far more than me taking Art by the hand, the Lord was the one who really took Art by the hand. And we see that in the words that Art would want us for focus in on this morning. For, in Psalm 84, God’s word tells us: “1 How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” (Psalms 84:1–4 NIV11-GKE)
Notice what these words are saying to us. Art needed someone to take him by the hand and lead him home. And this is a very important fact to speak about because this world was not his home. You see, long ago, there were only two people on the world, Adam and Eve. And in a very real sense, this world was their home because they were at home here. But what happened? They rebelled against the good and gracious God who created them. And when they did this, they started sinning against each other just as they sinned against God. And the gifts that were meant to last on this world didn’t last. And eventually, as the Lord promised, they died because of their sin, and they returned to the dust that they were made from.
And the same is true for Art. Month after month, I would visit him and we would confess the fact that we were sinners. And because of this, even though he had a home—and in the earlier years, it was even a home that he buit with his own hands, nevertheless, even though he had a home, he was never at home there for one simple reason: It didn’t last. Eventually, Art’s eyes and ears failed. And so it didn’t matter where Art lived, no place on this earth would really, truly be home because no place would take away his sin and not place would actually last.
So the Lord took him by the hand to lead him to see that this earth wasn’t his real, lasting home. Instead, there was a better, lasting home prepared for him. Jesus is the one who prepared this home for him. Jesus prepared this home for him by dying to pay for all of Art’s sins. Jesus prepared his home for him in heaven by rising from the dead, proving that all of Art’s sins were paid for and forgiven.
But that’s not all the the Lord did for Art. Our gracious God also gave him faith to know our Triune God and then cry out for this new home. And God’s word speaks about that this morning. Birds have a home. But we don’t. For home for us is with Jesus in heaven. And the psalmist here “cries out” to see and be with the living God. The word there for “cry out” is not crying out in desperation. Instead, it’s crying out in joy.1 (Psalms 84:3 BHS-T)}} This is the sort of cry when the Packers win a game, not the cry when they lose a game. It’s a cry of confidence and joy.
The Lord took Art by the hand and took him home because he knew that Art’s soul needed a home that would last. But in the words that follow, there’s another way in which the Lord took Art by the hand: “10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalms 84:10–11 NIV11-GKE)
What color are these flowers? These flowers are yellow. That was Art’s favorite color. And why is yellow such a good color? It’s like the sun. Notice how here in God’s word, we learn that the Lord is a sun and a shield for believers. Now, you could go in a lot of different directions with that thought. In what way is the Lord a sun? Just as the sun shines and gives light and warmth and does not hold back its gifts, so also, the Lord does not hold back his gifts. The Lord gives his gifts everyday.
I mention this fact because, in the days to follow, it might be tempting to conclude that God did withhold good gifts from Art. For the Lord took away his home in “Hodag” country. He took away his hearing. He took away his sight. But look at what the Lord gave him. He gave him friends. He gave him a loving family. He gave him a loving wife. And most of all he gave him forgiveness in God’s word every day. So the Lord did not withhold any good gift from him.
And this too was a fact I had to remind Art of. Every month I’d stop over and share God’s word with him and give him the Lord’s supper. And there were times when I’d ask him how things were going. And with that grumpy face, he’d say to me, “Look at me. I can’t see. I can’t hear. I can’t do anything. How do you think I’m doing?” And then I had the privilege of teaching him and reminding him that he is not alone. The bible is filled with so many examples of people who had hard lives, but their hearts still cried out in joy to the Lord. For they knew the Lord was with them, taking them by the hand, everyday. And after those devotions I would give him the Lord’s Supper. And as we closed our worship, every time he would look up to me and with such sincere joy, he would say, “thank you pastor.” And I admit, there were times when, after I said, “good bye,” I stayed there at his door looking at him. And it was so wonderful to see the sad and grumpy face replaced with contentment and joy. Why? He was contented and full of joy because the Lord didn’t just take him by the hand on his last day. The Lord took him by the hand every day.
So where does this leave us this morning? The Lord took Art by the hand and lead him home to heaven, safe at last, troubles past. But we aren’t home yet, are we? Let all us, friends and family of Art, cherish God’s word like Art did. Let us hear it and study it in church. Let us read it at home. Let us do this so that we would never stop yearning for and crying for our perfect lasting home of heaven. And let us do so, so that we see in our Lord taking us by the hand every day, just as Art did. Amen.