Thursday, October 31, 2019

"Sinking Hands"

Jeremiah 47.2-3 NIV

“The people will cry out; all who dwell in the land will wail at the sound of the hoofs of galloping steeds, at the noise of enemy chariots and the rumble of their wheels.

Fathers will not turn to help their children; their hands will hang limp.

Fear paralyzes a man. When action is needed and fear sets in, so does inaction. Plans to make a difference are stalled and good decisions are scrapped. Instead, “hands will hang limp.”

Many years ago, I represented a newlywed couple in the purchase of their first home. It would be the largest purchase of their young lives. The decision was made. The terms were agreed upon. Only signatures remained to seal the contract. Without warning, fear set in and the man became catatonic. He could not speak or lift his hand to grasp a pen. I tried to engage the husband, but he only stared blankly into space. His ‘hands hung limp,’ literally! After about an hour of coaxing by his wife, the young man came back to life and authorized the purchase. All ended well and the buyers secured their home. But his moment of panic is etched in my memory.

The literal rendition of the term “hands will hang limp” in Jeremiah 47.3 is “sinking of hands.” It is a Hebrew figure of speech meaning “helpless terror.”[1] “Fathers will not turn to help their children.” They are unable to perform with limp hands and a timid spirit. A child needs a father’s strong hands of love, support, and discipline. A fearful man, with “sinking hands” is no good to his family or himself. He must be bold and take strong action when strong action is required.

I almost drowned in a scuba diving accident once. There was no reason for my near-death experience. I brought the danger on myself by losing control and allowing fear and panic to set in. As I slid helplessly beneath the surface of the dark waters, I had only to exchange my snorkel for the regulator and breath normally. I then could easily have adjusted my weight by use of my BC (buoyancy compensator), as I had practiced many times in the swimming pool at Scuba School. Instead, I panicked and ripped off my weight belt and face mask. I cried “HELP!,” quickly swam to the nearest mollusk encrusted piling, and tightly hung on. All I could think of was keeping my head above water. My hands were useless to take the required action. I survived the ordeal and learned an important lesson that day in the dark waters of Puget Sound. When a man suffers from “helpless terror” and “sinking hands” his body literally freezes. He cannot take required action. His “hands will hang limp.”

If “fathers” want to “help their children” and their wives, neighbors, churches, and communities, they must rise above survival mode. Self-preservation is not the highest good. Making a positive impact on those we love demands action. We must show strength, take risks, and control fear. Nothing good comes from hands that “hang limp.”

[1] Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon, Unabridged, OT:7510.

Illustration of a man carrying a child is found on page 73 of "On the Divide" from the Willa Cather Archive, Overland Monthly, 27 (January 1896): pp. 65-75 (


Adonica said...

I'm glad you clarified in your blog that you "survived the ordeal." The suspense was killing me!

nitewrit said...


Or perhaps hands that clinch too tightly. Fear does stop reasonable action and can turn hands useless to help their children. I have a fear of height, a phobia actually. Once my daughter when very young wanted to go on the skyride at a park. I though it didn't look too bad, sit in something like a ski-lift chair over the park. Snapped in, I was concerned my daughter could slip under the restraining bar and put my arm around her. But as we went the phobia kicked in. I was terrified. I froze, until I heard my daughter squawk, "Daddy, you're hurting me!". My grip on her had grown tighter and tighter because of my fear. Setting out to protect her, I had become the source of harm.

If we fear something, but can't see the realities of the dangers it brings to others and let our fear paralyze us from action, then we become the danger as well. We Christians need to forget our fears of this world and stand for God's Word. Not doing so will not relieve our fear, but may very well greatly harm others.

Larry E.

davescriven said...

Very funny, Adonica.

Larry E., excellent insgights about fear. Thanks.