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The Finger of God

But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed,
guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” 

(Luke 11:15-26)

The apostle Paul describes Godas“dwellingin unapproachable light” so that no one has seen Him or can see Him (1 Timothy 6:16). Yet God graciously condescends to make Himself known to us. He wants us to know Him, and not only in His power which by itself would drive us away in terror, but also in His love to draw us to Him.

That we may know Him, God describes Himself to us in human terms. He speaks of His power as a “mighty hand” and an “outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:15). He speaks of His favor toward us as a kindly and welcoming face turned toward us (Numbers 6:25).

In this particular discourse Jesus uses a human term to reveal His divine power against the devil. 

Jesus’ enemies had been accusing Him of using satanic power to drive out demons. Jesus exposed the absurdity of this charge, for it did not even make sense that the devil would use his power to disrupt the work of his own allies. If he did that, his kingdom would fall by itself, as would any kingdom thus divided.

Jesus also exposed the hypocrisy of those who made the charge. Their own sons cast out demons, but no one accused them of using satanic power to do so. It was not satanic power but divine power by which Jesus cast out demons. That power Jesus here calls “the finger of God.”

But why the finger of God? Why not the arm of God or even the fist of God? Those are instruments of force used to subdue enemies. By contrast, fingers are instruments of finer things such as writing, artwork, and music.

The expression ‘finger of God’ first appears in the Bible when it was spoken by Pharaoh’s magicians after they were unable to replicate the miracles that Moses did. “This is the finger of God,” they said to Pharaoh (Exodus 8:19). Even those pagan sorcerers saw in the miracles of Moses the handiwork of the Almighty.

The expression appears again when we are told that the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18). The engraving on those stone tablets was not the work of a mere man but a communication directly from God—the expression of His holy will.

Jesus’ work of casting out demons was likewise the work of God. It bore the distinctive marks of God’s handiwork. It was the coming of the kingdom of God. It was God reestablishing His reign in His world by overthrowing the power of the enemy. Satan had gained a foothold in this world by leading mankind into sin and rebellion against God. Jesus came to destroy Satan’s power over us, and He did it by atoning for our sins and taking away our guilt with His cross.

Now instead of Satan ruling us to our destruction, we believers have God graciously ruling in our hearts to our good. Satan has been driven out, and we have the Holy Spirit living in us.

Yet Satan is always trying to find a way back in. Be on your guard against that, Jesus warns us here.  You, dear Christian, are like a house that has been swept and put in order. Keep the old evil foe out by filling your mind with the Word. That Word is still the finger of God by which Satan is cast out.

Tho’ devils all the world should fill,

All eager to devour us,

We tremble not, we fear no ill,

They shall not overpow’r us.

This world’s prince may still

Scowl fierce as he will,

He can harm us none,

He’s judged; the deed is done;

One little word can fell him.

(TLH #262:3)