Empty Hands


“Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4).

The majority of occurrences of the word “thankful,” or “thanks,” in the Old Testament are translated from a Hebrew word (yodah) which means to hold out, or to extend an empty hand.

A truly thankful person is one who has come to grips with certain realities about his need before God. God commands us to be thankful. It was a duty given to the Levitical priests “to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at even” (I Chronicles 23:30). The Hebrew word used by the Old Testament writers under inspiration is a picture of one holding out an empty thankful hand to God. There is nothing we can bring to God that causes Him to bless us. Our empty hands picture our inability to accomplish the will of God or to provide for our own needs, or the needs of others.

Nebuchadnezzar had to learn this lesson. Although he had been warned to repent of his self-pride, he still said: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built . . . by the might of my power?” (Daniel 4:30). This great king was “driven” out by God and caused to eat grass “like an oxen,” and when his senses returned, he realized that even a mighty king’s hands are empty unless the King of kings fills them.

Romans 1:21 confirms to us what has happened in our own generation as people have denied their dependency upon their Creator. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Our witness to this darkened world is to live the reality of our own empty hands extended in thankfulness to the one about whom the psalmist has written: “Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good” (Psalm 104:28). CJH