(NOTE: This is a ‘rough draft’ of a chapter of my finished book- available on Amazon via Title Link: Thy Kingdom Come- Here and Now!)
Chapter 9- The Principle of Laying On of Hands
In human relationships touch is of such paramount importance. We find in the literature of psychology many volumes written of studies showing how the lack of demonstrated affection in the act of touching has caused many personalities to be stunted and warped in natural development. In contemporary thought the method of attachment parenting is showing great promise in promoting mental and emotional health with children growing with a greater sense of self worth, purpose, and enthusiasm about their abilities to grow well and whole in every area of life.
On the other hand the enemy of our souls continues to assault the seed of mankind with the perversion of physical relationship. The pandemic of sexually deviant behavior involves touching with selfish or perverted motives. Child abuse, both physical and sexual, adult rape, illicit sex of all kinds, spousal abuse (predominantly wife battering), and all other forms of inappropriate touch find their essential roots in the need to touch and be touched.
In the doctrine of laying on of hands we see the combination of two power sources for a focused purpose. The power of spoken words- to create, release, or activate- and the power of touch to impart something special, something catalytic that will accelerate God’s purposes in a channeled direction.
In the outstanding book The Blessing by Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent, the authors vividly describe both scriptural examples as well as case studies taken from their private practices, of the profound positive effects of appropriate touch combined with declarations of love or affirmation that can impart and unlock destiny. They define five basic parts of the blessing:
- Meaningful Touch
- A Spoken Message
- Attaching “High Value” to the One Being Blessed
- Picturing a Special Future for the One Being Blessed
- An Active Commitment to Fulfill the Blessing
Each time that a blessing was bestowed in the Scriptures, meaningful touch provided intimacy that set a caring background to the words that were spoken. Kissing, hugging, and the laying on of hands were all a part of imparting the blessing. The act of touch is a key to communicating warmth, affection, acceptance, and affirmation to another. To see the blessing blossom and grow in another’s life we need to verbalize a personal message with good words that provide genuine acceptance, words of high value. There needs to be the recognition that this person is valuable both to God and others. We will look at some examples in the Scriptures where the act of blessing pictured a special future that carried the weight of prophecy to be fulfilled.
In our personal experience though we must be careful not to impart grandiose accomplishments as declaration of a person’s future, when we have not heard from the Lord. Unless we truly receive a prophetic word, which will course need to be tested by the person with confirmation in the mouth of two or three witnesses- we should focus on a special future that is based on the individual’s apparent natural bent. God the Father is continually at work in each of us to bring out the best in us. We do need the guidance, encouragement, and active commitment on the part of those who are important in our lives to help us fulfill the blessing and accomplish God’s greater purposes. We must be willing to do the same for others, which is an aspect of our fitting effectively together in the Body of Christ. The Scriptures are full of examples of such blessings conferred. Let’s look closely at some of the more pivotal ones in the history of God’s dealing with mankind by way of the chosen.
I don’t think it is a stretch to look at the blessing of Isaac upon Jacob as a primary example of the impartation of blessing with the laying on of hands. The incident in Genesis 27 involved deception on the part of Jacob and Rebekah his mother stealing the birthright that rightfully belonged to Esau. This is a case where human behavior though not righteous, facilitated the fulfilling of God’s eternal purposes. It is clear in the account of Jacob’s life that God intended to bless Jacob above Esau. We read:
Genesis 27:26-30… Then his father Isaac said to him, Please come near and kiss me, my son. See the smell of my son– like the smell of a field which Jehovah has blessed. And may God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you. And as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had just gone out from the presence of Isaac his father…
As the story reveals though Isaac’s intention was to bless his first born son Esau, he had mixed God’s desire to bless with his natural carnal tendencies which blinded him. Instead Isaac blessed Jacob, but due to his physical blindness- he blessed blindly, both physically and spiritually. Although this reveals Isaac’s lack of spiritual maturity, he did bless both of his sons by faith, and God honored his blessing.
The account shows that Jacob had to run for his life for fear of Esau. After two decades of self-will, Jacob was confronted with a divine encounter where the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus personally imparts destiny to him with the laying on of hands.
Genesis 32:24-30… And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. And when the man saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with Him. And the man said, Let Me go, for the dawn is breaking. But Jacob said, I will not let You go unless You bless me. And He said to him, What is your name? And he said, Jacob. And He said, Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed. And Jacob asked Him and said, Please tell me Your name. But He said, Why is it that you ask My name [for it is Wonderful]? And He blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, for he said, I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been preserved.
According to Hosea this man was the Angel of the Lord- Christ Jesus. We read this in: Hosea 12:4&5… Indeed he contended with the Angel and prevailed; He wept and made supplication to Him. At Bethel he found Him; and there He spoke with us, Even Jehovah the God of hosts; Jehovah is His memorial.
The Lord as a man wrestled with Jacob that He might touch his natural strength- his natural life. This was the beginning of Jacob’s spiritual transformation, and although his outward living in many instances showed no apparent change, he had been dealt with by the Lord who changed his name from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (a prince who has power with God).
Many decades later- perhaps 100 years (Jacob lived to be 147- see Genesis 47:28), the principle of laying on of hands is used by Jacob to bless his grandchildren by Joseph. The account clearly shows the Hand of God in the impartation of the birthright blessing:
Genesis 48:3-5;9;14-16… And Jacob said to Joseph, The All-sufficient God appeared to me at Luz [Bethel] in the land of Canaan and blessed me. And He said to me, Behold, I am going to make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make you a company of peoples and will give this land to your seed after you for an everlasting possession. And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine… And Joseph said to his father, They are my sons, whom God has given to me here. And he said, Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them… But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it upon Ephraim’s head- although he was the younger- and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands with insight, even though Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph and said, The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has shepherded me all my life to this day, The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; And may my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they be a teeming multitude in the midst of the earth.
Jacob’s blessing of his two grandsons by Joseph was full of insight, whereas his father Isaac had blessed blindly. Although his physical eyes were dim (v10), Jacob (Israel) was mature and moved with power in union with God’s purposes. He was clear in his spirit that God’s perfect will was to bless and establish Ephraim above Manasseh who was the firstborn. This shows that receiving the birthright does not depend on our natural birth, but rather on God’s predestination (see Romans 9:10-13). It is worth noting in this passage that Jacob’s mention of God three times in verses 15 and 16 refers distinctly to the Triune God. The God before whom Abraham and Isaac walked is the Father… the God who shepherded Jacob his whole life is the Spirit… and the Angel who redeemed him from all evil is the Son.
In the subsequent chapter 49, Jacob blesses all twelve of his sons… although not clearly stated probably with the laying on of hands. He demonstrated his spiritual maturity in God by prophesying with blessing concerning each of his sons, clearly speaking with divine authority- God speaking through him. His sons became the twelve tribes of Israel, which is a type of the church- God’s household composed of all believers. Exercising wisdom and discretion, what was spoken prophetically by Jacob concerning his sons may be applied to the church and the spiritual experience of believers, as well as to the children of Israel in the natural.
The principle of laying on of hands in the Levitical priesthood ceremonies (Leviticus 4:15;8:14;24:14 etc.) is best seen in Lev.16:21&22… And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all their transgressions; even all their sins; and he shall put them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness… Thus the goat shall bear away all their iniquities on itself to a solitary land, and he shall let the goat go in the wilderness.
Through the laying on of hands the children of Israel, the Levites,and the sacrificial animal were identified with each other. Every aspect of the service of the tabernacle and the ministry of the Levitical priesthood was very exact and required extended apprenticeship training. Great care was taken to eliminate carelessness by modeled discipline so as not to offend God. We will look closely at the tabernacle teachings in the future book Cleansing the Temple and see the beauty of Christ and His atoning work revealed in its types and shadows. The attainment of full stature in the Body of Christ behooves us to recognize that discipline is needed in the Christian life, and in service in the church, that we may be His Holy, Royal, Warrior-Priesthood.
A critical example of the principle of laying on of hands is played out in:
Numbers 27:18-23… And Jehovah said to Moses, Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand upon him; And set him before Eleazar the priest and before the whole assembly, and give him a charge in their sight. And you shall put some of your honor upon him, so that the whole assembly of the children of Israel may obey him. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, and he shall inquire for him… before Jehovah… And Moses did as Jehovah commanded him, and he took Joshua… And he laid his hands upon him and gave him a charge just as Jehovah had spoken through Moses.
Deuteronomy 34:9… And Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him; and the children of Israel listened to him and did as Jehovah had commanded Moses.
This is again a prime example in the Old Testament of the power of impartation that is resident and transferable through the laying on of hands.
In the New Testament accounts numerous examples give tremendous insight into the power of the laying on of hands. We see even in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ that a primary desire of God is to impart blessing as well as healing via this means.
Matthew 19:13-15… Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.
Mark 10:15,16… Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child shall by no means enter into it. And taking them into His arms, He fervently blessed them, laying His hands on them.
Mark 8:23… And He took hold of the hand of the blind man and led him forth outside of the village. And He spat on his eyes and laid His hands on him and asked him, Do you see anything? And he looked up and said, I see men, for I see them as trees, walking. Then again He laid His hands upon his eyes, and the man looked intently and was restored, and he began to see all things clearly.
One of my all-time favorite portion of Scripture that has had no small controversy concerning its authenticity is found at the end of the Gospel of Mark. I include it in its entirety here because of the deeply profound nature of its commission to us directly from our Precious Lord.
Mark 16:15-18;20… And He said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it shall by no means harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will be well… And they went out and preached everywhere the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.
Luke 4:40… And when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid his hands on each of them and healed them.
Luke 13:13… And He laid His hands on her, and instantly she was made erect and began to glorify God.
As we have seen in the commission given in the Gospel of Mark and in the following portions from the book of Acts, we as His disciples have the authority through His indwelling Holy Spirit to lay hands on others for healing, for blessing, for impartation of the gifts of the Spirit, and to help activate the calling that God has for those individuals.
Acts 8:17… Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 9:17… And Ananias… entered into the house; and laying his hands on him, he said, Saul, brother, the Lord has sent me– Jesus, who appeared to you on the road on which you were coming– so that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 13:2-4… And as they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me now Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. They… having been sent out by the Holy Spirit…
1 Timothy 1:18,19; 4:12-16 (NKJV)… This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck…
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
The word shipwreck implies that the individual Christian life as well as the corporate Church life are like sailing ships on a stormy sea. They need to be safeguarded by ever-increasing and consistent faith and a good or clear conscience. The laying on of hands as we have seen has two aspects and functions: one for identification as referenced in Lev.1:4, and the other for impartation. These two are connected for without identification there can be no basis for imparting something. The elders including the apostle Paul ‘identified’ with Timothy and God’s call on his life- signified by the laying on of hands, and thereby the gift of grace to ‘build’ the church at Ephesus was imparted to Timothy.
2 Timothy 1:6-10 (NKJV)… Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saves us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…
The two letters to Paul’s student and son in the faith are separated by years, and changing circumstances. Paul in the second letter to Timothy is imprisoned, facing execution, and many of the churches that he had established are experiencing the degrading influence of mixture with the world and false pagan practices. He challenges Timothy to not only continue to declare the true gospel, but also to anticipate and even welcome the suffering that accompanies standing for truth in an increasingly hostile world. Timothy was beaten to death by hoodlums in front of his congregation (see Living in the Combat Zone by Rick Renner).
Our Holy God did not only save us to enjoy His blessings but He has also called us with a holy calling, a divine destiny according to His perfect will for a specific goal, to fulfill His glorious purpose. We as true believers must be ready at all times to receive the grace needed in the moment, whether it is to live for Him, or to die for Him. He has the infinite wisdom to orchestrate all things to His end and the consummation of all things in the not-too-distant future.
It is clear that our God loves diversity, especially with respect to His children. For one soul He desires the power of creativity to be released in the area of music, art, or dance. To another the impartation of individual purpose will manifest in a political career that truly honors God. Or a business that provides exceptional service and value to its customers. Or in teaching, or scientific discovery, or technology, or any one of the myriad choices that mankind has in human potential carried out. Whatever the arena, God desires and expects wholeness, completion, and even perfection in human endeavor– that clearly reveals His touch. The imprimatur of the Holy Spirit sealed with the Blood of Jesus has both temporal impact and eternal significance.
But it must be by His sovereign leading. We need to be careful to not be premature or presumptuous. We must pray through, seek wise godly counsel, be in accountable relationships that help us guard our hearts, and only move in response to the Holy Spirit’s compelling. The Word cautions: Lay hands on no man suddenly. The hidden truth of this warning is that spiritual energy can be transmitted both ways– either from the flow of the Holy Spirit through us, or the ‘sliming’ of the forces of darkness. When we are ‘prayed up’, and have kept our accounts short with the Lord (no unrepented, unconfessed sin in our lives) we can anticipate victory. Sometimes though we may find ourselves fighting unnecessary battles. This is why we need the mind of Christ– to be timely in obedience and action in order to pull down strongholds, and to impart divine blessings. Let us therefore be mindful to exercise the principle of laying on of hands with humility, spiritual direction, and for the edifying of the Body of Christ.
Hillsong- ‘This is My Desire’