[forthright] The Finger of God

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 05 Apr 2003 15:34:35 -0300
   Forthright Magazine
   http://www.forthright.net
   Going straight to the Cross


   When someone tells you, "You can't miss it," you
   probably will. But not this.


   The Finger of God
   by J. Randal Matheny

   Unmistakable. No way to confuse the two. That was
   Jesus' answer, and Luke's phraseology, to answer a
   slanderous accusation against the Lord's work.

   Jesus had cured a mute by driving out a demon.
   Some of the Jews assigned the power behind the
   cure to Beelzebub, a name for Satan.

   But the devil would be shooting himself in the
   foot were he to do that, answers Jesus. And
   besides, he continues, your disciples purport to
   expel demons, so they must be doing it by some
   "good" power. They are your own judges.

   And then he says, "But if I drive out demons by
   the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has
   come to you" (Luke 11:20 NIV).

   Luke's choice of the phrase "by the finger of God"
   draws us closer. Matthew used the phrase "by the
   Spirit of God" (12:28). Both phrases mean the
   power of God at work in Jesus' ministry, so we
   shouldn't trot off too quickly to yell
   contradiction.

   Luke probably takes his phrase from Exodus 8:18.
   In previous plagues, Pharaoh's magicians had
   replicated to the king's satisfaction the miracles
   performed by Moses' hand. But they failed at the
   plague of the insects. "Then the magicians said to
   Pharaoh, 'This is the finger of God.'" The next
   time they are mentioned, they cannot appear before
   Pharaoh because they were covered with boils
   (9:11). They then disappear from the picture.

   In the Expositor's Greek Testament, A. B. Bruce
   thought Luke's choice of phrase emphasized "the
   immediateness of the Divine action through Jesus"
   (1:549). But if we take Exodus 8 as the
   background, I would think Luke wanted to emphasize
   the obviousness of the divine power behind Jesus.
   The magicians were quick to acknowledge there was
   no mistaking the power of God evident in Moses'
   plagues. His power was clearly far beyond the
   powers of evil.

   So what does that mean for us?

   First, in something of a reverse situation, plenty
   of people want to use the power and blessing of
   God as a blanket for supposed miracles and good
   works. Just as Jesus didn't let the Jews get by
   with confusing minds about the source of his
   power, neither should we let go unchallenged
   assertions that people and religions operate by
   the power of God, when in fact the divine curse
   rests upon them for negating Christ.

   Second, the finger of God is not only a symbol for
   the power of God, but also for the word of God.
   Moses received two tablets of stone "written by
   the finger of God" (Exodus 31.18). When we insist
   upon objective truth and full obedience to the
   gospel, people sometimes label us as "legalists"
   or worse. While we refuse to get into a mud fight,
   neither should we let them get away with calling
   light darkness and darkness, light.

   Third, identifying the power and word of God just
   isn't that difficult. A hardened heart like
   Pharaoh or the self-righteous Jews could look at
   the working of the finger of God right in front of
   their faces, but not because they couldn't
   recognize it. Because they didn't want to
   recognize it, because it didn't fit their
   ambitious plans. For when God speaks, when God
   works, it's unmistakable.

   The finger of God. When it moves, you can't miss
   it.