Wednesday, December 21, 2016

God's arm

Jesus carrying a lamb in His arms
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 52:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."  Isaiah 52:10

In this prophecy of God redeeming and restoring Jerusalem, Isaiah uses the picturesque expression, "made bare His holy arm." My Bible's notes on Isaiah explain that this is a colloquialism meaning, "God will roll up His sleeves." In other words, really get down to business in saving Jerusalem.

Bible writers use God's arm as a figure of speech in other places. I've picked out a few. In each of the ones I'm citing, it refers to an aspect of His power.

  • God, in conversation with Moses, promises to free Israel from bondage to the Egyptians with an "outstretched arm" - Exodus 6:6. Isaiah talks about God's "glorious arm" dividing the water for the Israelites as they leave Egypt - Isaiah 63:12. Paul also refers to God freeing Israel from slavery: "…and with an uplifted arm He brought them out of it" - Acts 13:17.
  • In Deuteronomy Moses reminds the people that God is unchanging. He shelters them in "everlasting arms" - Deuteronomy 33:27.
  • Ethan the Ezrahite writes about God's "mighty arm," which scatters enemies, along with His strong hand and high right hand, giving us the picture of a victory stance - Psalm 89:10,13.
  • Our reading isn't the only place God uses His arm on behalf of Jerusalem. God swears by "His right hand and the arm of His strength" to restore her in Isaiah 62:8.
  • "To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" asks Isaiah (Isaiah 53:1). He goes on to answer his question by describing the One we interpret as Jesus, who became the lamb of God sacrificed for our sins (Isaiah 53:2 and on).
  • Finally, Mary in her prayer of praise we call the Magnificat, sums up the significance of God's arm at work: "He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts" - Luke 1:51. And we recall that the occasion of Mary speaking the Magnificat (her pregnancy and visit to Elizabeth), ended in the birth of Jesus, God's arm of justice and love extended to save the world!

Like Israel needed God's arm to get away from Egypt; like the Israelites needed His arm to defend them against their enemies; like Jerusalem needed His arm to be redeemed and restored; like all of mankind needs Him for salvation, we need God to "bare His arm," to roll up His sleeves on our behalf. We need His arm for salvation and the challenges of life.

(It's interesting to note that the work we might consider arm-worthy—the creation of the earth and the universe—is described as the work of God's fingers [Psalm 8:3].)

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for these pictures of Your powerful arm. Help me to turn to You for that power whenever life is too big for me—which is usually. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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