#52 UNDER GOD’S MIGHTY HAND

There are some concepts in the Greek text of 1Peter 5:6,7 that are not expressed in the English translations. This week’s meditation looks at the meaning of the Greek text of ‘humble yourselves’, ‘cast all your anxiety’ and ‘he cares for you.’

Firstly, the English has ‘humble yourselves’, which is commanding something we have to actively do. But the Greek puts it passively – ‘be humbled’ (or ‘let yourselves be humbled’) under God’s mighty hand. In other words, it is God who is humbling us, and Peter is commanding us to let God do it.  God is the active person, and his actions are directed towards us.

God in his sovereign authority has permitted whatever situation we are experiencing, so we must not let his purpose for us in the situation be wasted by refusing to trust ourselves to him and depend on him in the situation.

Behind this command to ‘be humbled’ is trust in God’s good purpose:

Peter tells us that God will lift us up in due time [verse 6]. And James says the same thing – ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up’ [4:10], with the same passive sense of the verb.

Peter has already taught us that ‘all kinds of trials ... come so that your faith ... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’ [1:7].

The letter to the Hebrews states ‘No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it’ [12:11].

And Paul in a long passage on suffering [Romans 8:18-39] assures us that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him’ [verse 28].

Secondly, in the NIV, ‘Cast all your anxiety’ is a command, a second thing we have to do. But in the Greek, it is a participle ... hence the KJV translation ‘casting’. However, even ‘casting’ does not accurately convey the meaning of the Greek, which means ‘having cast’ (for those who want to know, it is an Aorist participle). It refers to a decisive action that has preceded the main verb. The command ‘be humbled’ assumes that this ‘having cast’ has already been deliberately done. The only way we are going to ‘be humbled’ under God’s mighty hand is to have first cast all our anxiety on him. If we have not cast our anxiety on him we will not be trusting his good hand upon us.

Thirdly, ‘all your anxiety’ [NIV], or ‘all your care’ [KJV], does not mean that we have individually cast each item of concern that comes up, but the whole of it – a total throwing of it all upon God in one decisive action. In addition, the word translated ‘anxiety’ or ‘care’ is the word used in the parable of the sower - ‘the worries ... of this life’ which distract a person from pursuing faith in Christ. It is a reference to a division of the mind, a pulling of our attention away from God, and a focusing on these concerns as if the outcome depended totally upon us, as if God was not there and as if God was not for us.

Fourthly, the English ‘for he cares for you’ does not seem to have the strength of the Greek: literally, ‘because to him it matters about you.’ What happens to us might not matter to anyone else, but to God, it matters.

And this is the key truth in these two verses: it matters to God what happens to us.

Because it matters to God what is happening to us we have permission to throw all of our cares – all of the worries of this life – onto him.

Because it matters to God what is happening to us we can trust him in and with all the circumstances of our lives.

Because we can thus trust him with all that concerns us, because we know that he is wholly for us, we can be wholly for him.

And this brings us back to the beginning: that we are humbled under his mighty hand.

All of this – this being humbled by God, this having cast all our worries on him, this realisation that it matters to God about us – can be stated in one word: trust.

Paul expresses this humble, confident trust: ‘I am suffering ... Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day’ [2Timothy 1:12].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018