“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:11-12
At 32 weeks, Mother’s uterus is pushing up against her abdomen and diaphragm, sparking heartburn and causing shortness of breath. Baby’s toenails and fingernails have completely developed to their final form and his bones have just about reached their full pre-birth growth. His skin is becoming soft and smooth as the layer of downy hair that has covered your baby's skin for the past few months (lanugo) starts to fall off.
Both human skin and nails serve to protect our bodies as we move around in a world of thumps, bumps and bacteria. Our skin protects our most valuable assets from the outside world - our heart, brain, bones, blood, nerves, muscles – and packages them neatly so we’re not a blobby mess. Skin is our first line of defense against infectious invasion by germs, chemicals and other contaminants. Our birthday suit regulates our body temperature and responds to touch and pain stimuli. Skin also operates as a chemical factory, producing vitamin D3, which is essential for a healthy heart, bones, memory and blood pressure.
Finger- and toenails are made of a protein called keratin, the same protein that makes up hair. The primary function of nails is to shield fingertips and toes from injury. They increase the sensitivity of our digits by acting as counter forces when the pulp of fingers and toes touch an object. Both toenails and fingernails are examined by doctors to help in diagnosing certain diseases, and conditions like dehydration and shock.
Jewish mysticism has something to say about every aspect of life – including fingernails! Nails should be cut in a particular order: Left digits 3-1-4-2-5 first followed by right digits 8-6-9-7-10. According to the Kabbalah, fingernails and toenails should be cut on different days. It is a mitzvah, (a good deed done out of religious duty), to cut one's fingernails on Friday in honor of Shabbat, and before Yom Tov (a festival day). However, one may not cut nails on Shabbat and Yom Tov, since that is one of the acts of forbidden labor. The habit of nail-biting is discouraged, especially since it may lead to biting fingernails on Shabbat, which is prohibited.
In Scripture, skin diseases were sometimes inflicted by God as a punishment for sin, and those with skin diseases, (lumped into a general category of “leprosy”), were considered to be “unclean” and were excluded from the social life of the community and barred from worship (Numbers 12:10; Leviticus 13; 2 Chronicles 26:19-21; Job 2:7; 20:20). The need to protect skin from the sun is acknowledged (Psalm 121:5; Jonah 4:6), and surefootedness is a protection to a warrior who could be taken out in battle by a simple stubbed toe or a stone in his shoe (Psalm 91:12; 121:3).
But while our skin and nails protect us, both can be breached and leave us vulnerable: in anticipation of physical attack, we reinforce ourselves with shoes and gloves. Soldiers, police and firemen wear protective gear and body armor to offset any wounds or burns they might receive in battle. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul cautioned Believers to don the armor provided by God for spiritual warfare as well:
“…put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17).
God provides developing humans with protection in the womb as He builds skin and nails for our daily protection, allowing us to move about the world in relative safety. God also provides spiritual armor to protect us as we battle the Enemy who has stalked us from the womb – the same Enemy who threatened Jesus when he took on flesh and came to dwell among us (John 1:14).
The God who anticipates everything joined us in our vulnerability to wounding and attack; He absorbed all our infections, yet was without disease; His skin was wounded so ours could be raised immortal; He exposed himself to violence, but never leaves us unprotected; He is a stumbling stone to many (I Peter 2:8), and a Rock, a Deliverer and a Shield to those who believe (Psalm 18:2).
“This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
2 Chronicles 20:15b