‘For they bind heavy burdens … and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers’, Matt. 23. 4. The Lord Jesus condemned the Pharisees for laying burdens on others that they themselves would not attempt to carry. We still use the expression when someone is unwilling to make even the smallest effort - ‘he would not lift a finger to help’.
The references in scripture to the finger of God remind us that God’s power is unlimited, and even the smallest exercise of it causes mighty things to happen. ‘God is a Spirit’, John 4. 24, so references to His finger are metaphorical.
‘Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said’, Exod. 8. 19.
The magicians in Pharaoh’s court in Egypt were the first in scripture to speak of ‘the finger of God’. The first three plagues had been unleashed on the land of Egypt: the water was turned into blood, 7. 20; frogs covered the land and came into the houses, 8. 5; the dust became lice and afflicted the people and the animals, 8. 16. The wise men of Egypt realized that this was something supernatural; altogether beyond their experience, and certainly beyond their ability to replicate. They expressed their conclusion to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God’. Despite the evidence before him of the existence of God and the power of God being demonstrated on such a scale, we are told that ‘Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them’, v. 19.
‘And he gave unto Moses … two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God’, Exod. 31. 18.
Job spoke of writing with an iron pen (chisel) to cut into the rock, Job 19. 24. The names of the tribes of Israel were engraved on the two onyx stones, which were carried on the shoulders of the High Priest, ‘With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet’; and likewise on the precious stones on his breastplate, Exod. 28. 11, 21.
However, the commandments on the tables of stone were not written with an instrument or tool of any kind, nor as the result of an engraver’s skill, but with the finger of God, ‘the tables were written on both their sides … And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables’, 32. 15, 16. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw the people worshipping the golden calf, ‘Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount’, v. 19. ‘And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest’, 34. 1. God’s first word was His final word; the tables of stone could be broken, but God’s word remained the same -‘the scripture cannot be broken’, John 10. 35.
‘In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote’, Dan. 5. 5.
The setting is Belshazzar’s palace in the great banqueting hall. One thousand of the most powerful men of his kingdom had assembled for a great feast. The wine was flowing freely, and, as he tasted it, the king commanded that the holy vessels that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem should be brought in, and they would all drink from them, v. 2. To compound this act of sacrilege, as they drank, they ‘praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone’, v. 4.
Suddenly something happened that dramatically changed the atmosphere in the room. The king saw the fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, clearly visible near the candlestick. The king was physically shaken, ‘[his] countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him … and his knees smote one against another’, vv. 5, 6.
When Daniel interpreted the writing, the solemn message was that Belshazzar was ‘weighed in the balances, and … found wanting’, v. 27. His kingdom was ended; the message of judgement, written by the finger of God on the palace wall, was soon to come to pass - ‘In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain’, v. 30.
‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained’, Ps. 8. 3.
On Christmas day 2021, NASA launched into space the largest and most expensive telescope ever made, ‘on a mission to study the earliest stars and peer back farther into the universe’s past than ever before’.1 The James Webb Space Telescope cost ten billion dollars to develop. What a contrast there is between men who probe into space, for the most part with no acknowledgement of God, and David the shepherd boy, who gazed into the night sky from the hills of Bethlehem and saw far more than scientists will ever see through their most powerful telescope. Beyond the moon and stars, he saw the Creator of it all and confessed, ‘it is the work of thy fingers’.
‘And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech … And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain’, Mark 7. 32-35.
This miracle took place at the sea of Galilee and is recorded only by Mark. A man who was both deaf and dumb was brought to the Lord by his friends. They pleaded with Jesus to put His hand on him. Taking him away from the crowds, the Lord put His fingers into the man’s ears, and after spitting He touched his tongue. Then He looked up to heaven and sighed, knowing that the man’s condition was the result of sin. He said to the man, ‘Ephphatha … Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain’. Those who witnessed the miracle ‘were beyond measure astonished’, v. 37. The incarnate Son of God was at Galilee that day, and His fingers were the fingers of God.
‘But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you’, Luke 11. 20.
On many occasions the Lord demonstrated His ability to cast out demons. The Apostle Peter recounted what he had witnessed, ‘who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him’, Acts 10. 38. Mary Magdalene is mentioned in Mark chapter 16 verse 9 as the woman ‘out of whom He had cast seven demons’, NKJV.
In chapter 5 verses 1 to 20, we read of the man from Gadara who was possessed by an unclean spirit. He lived a life of misery and self-harm, ‘always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones’, v. 5. The Lord Jesus knew of his plight and crossed the sea of Galilee to meet his need. He said to the demon, ‘Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit’. Then He asked, ‘What is thy name?’ The demon answered, ‘My name is Legion: for we are many’, vv. 8, 9. The man of Gadara was wonderfully delivered from a multitude of demons. What a transformation! ‘And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind’, v. 15.
In Luke chapter 11 verses 14 to 23, the Lord answered those who said that He cast out devils through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils. He reasoned that a divided kingdom could never stand. He had released people from the power of Satan by the supreme power of the Almighty God, with the finger of God - which ought to have been evidence beyond all doubt to them that ‘the kingdom of God is come upon you’, v. 20.
‘But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not … And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground’, John 8. 6, 8.
The Lord Jesus had come early in the morning to the temple and sat down to teach. His teaching was interrupted by a group of Jewish religious leaders, scribes and Pharisees, who burst in bringing a woman taken in the act of adultery. They quoted from Leviticus chapter 20 verse 10, the punishment to fit her crime. They said, ‘Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?’ John 8. 5. Had the Lord said, ‘She should be stoned’, then He would have been charged with advocating that they should break Roman law, for the Jews were forbidden from carrying out capital punishment, 18. 31. If He had answered, ‘No, she should not be stoned’, then they would have charged Him with undermining the law of Moses. What would He do? How would He answer?
‘But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not’, 8. 6. We are not told what the Lord wrote, but where He wrote - He wrote on the ground, in the dust. Man was created from the dust of the ground, Gen. 2. 7. In Psalm 103 verse 14, David wrote, ‘For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust’. So our Lord stood up and said, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’ John 8. 7. Campbell Morgan said, ‘That one sentence put me out of the stone-throwing business for the rest of my life’.2
Then the Lord stooped down a second time and again He wrote on the ground. What a dramatic effect His words had on the band of accusers, ‘And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one’, v. 9. For the first time, the Lord spoke to the woman, ‘where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more’, vv. 10, 11. The Lord did not condone her sin, He said ‘Go, and sin no more’. He immediately continued His teaching, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness’, v. 12. The finger that wrote that morning on the dust of the temple floor was the finger of God.