The pre-eminent sense: The touch of God when we need it most

The current pandemic has highlighted our innate, human desire (and need) to be touched.

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If I was to put the title to this article to you in the form of a question—What is the pre-eminent sense?—I could get six answers. Six you say? Yes, six. We know that sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch are senses we have as humans. The sixth is proprioception (this allows us to know where our body parts are in space).

The gourmand may say that taste is the best sense to have. The sound engineer or someone like Professor Graeme Clark, who invented the cochlear implant, may say hearing is the most important sense. If we could ask Professor Fred Hollows the same question, he would no doubt say that sight is the greatest of all senses.

But if we could ask Helen Adam Keller (d 1968), who could neither see nor hear, what would she say? I am quite confident that she would say that the sense of touch is the indispensable sense, the paramount sense, even the pre-eminent sense.

If we should give serious thought to this question, I think we would agree with the famed Helen Keller. Try to imagine that you have suddenly lost all sense of touch; not only hand touch but touching by any part of your body.

You would soon be a body of bruises. But that wouldn’t be the worst of it. You could not feel the stroke of a loved one’s hand, nor feel anything at all when they kissed you—nor could you meaningfully respond. You would not know how much to chew your food, as your tongue would have no sensation. At the other end of that journey you would not be able to tell when your excretory organs should be used. Now, that would be a problem, wouldn’t it?

The sense of touch was given to us by our Maker for a number of reasons, including enjoyment, safety, comfort and for our emotional needs.

In the COVID-19 virus environment we have been living in for some time, the touches we are used to receiving from loved ones and friends are greatly reduced. No longer do we shake hands, give people a hug or kiss those close to us. Oh, no! We could be passing on to them the dreaded virus! Since my wife passed away just before the pandemic, I tell people I am hug-less and that is true now for more than one reason.

In the Bible, much is said about “touch”. There are two full columns in small print with words referring to touch in my Strong’s Concordance. These are: touch, touched, toucheth (touches) and touching. These words, with the same common root, are fairly evenly divided between both Testaments. Indeed, the gospel descriptions of the ministry of Jesus shows that touch played a significant part in Christ’s ministry of healing and giving life to the dead. And not only that, but imagine the joy the little children had as Jesus blessed them, placed His hands upon them and gave these little ones a loving hug.

The first warning about the wrong use of touch was given by God Himself when He warned Adam and Eve they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, nor even touch it, or they would die (Genesis 3:3).

Much later, Israel was warned not even to touch unclean foods or other unclean things (see Leviticus). God also warned that His anointed ones and His prophets were not to be touched in a harmful way (1 Chronicles 16:22).

In Christ’s time, faith was wonderfully demonstrated when a woman found Jesus and touched the hem of His garment and was immediately healed of her bleeding.

When Myra “Brooks” Welch wrote the well-known poem “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”, little could she have guessed how popular this piece would become, right down to our day. What is so appealing about this poem is that the author, through the figure of the old violinist, turns our attention to the Master of us all who, with His touch, makes all the difference in the world for us.


William Ackland is retired in Cooranbong, New South Wales, and has written six books.