The Arm(s) of the Lord

A couple Saturdays ago, I was mowing a neighbor’s lawn. It was a dry, warm afternoon—perfect weather conditions for accentuating my farmer’s tan.

As I walked back and forth, back and forth across that lawn, pushing along my Honda mower under the unforgiving Texas sun, trying my best to cut the grass neatly and straightly, my thoughts kept drifting to Isaiah 53. Above the roar of the mower, these words were running through my mind:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men;

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

As you probably know, Isaiah 53 is chock-full of stunningly accurate prophecies about our Lord Jesus, all recorded about 700 years before He came to earth. (Can you imagine? Seven centuries! To put that in perspective, 700 years ago from today was 1316 A.D.—way back in medieval times.) Referring to Isaiah 53, the commentator Matthew Henry wrote, “This chapter is so replenished with the unsearchable riches of Christ that it may be called rather the gospel of the evangelist Isaiah than the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah.” Agreed.

Verse 1 in particular caught my attention:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

What is “the arm of the Lord”? I wondered. That’s a curious expression. I decided to look it up after I finished my lawn mowing.

Turns out, in the Old Testament, “the arm of the Lord” is often associated with mighty acts of God. It’s an idiom the Israelites coined to describe miraculous and awesome stuff God did (see Deuteronomy 5:15 and Isaiah 51:9, for example.) They didn’t claim to see the physical arm of God; they just used that term when referring to God’s work.

But that changed when Jesus came on the scene. He was God—in the flesh. He was the personification of the arm of the Lord, lovingly reaching out to heal and serve and restore. Think about it! The arms of Jesus were the arm of the Lord.

  • The arm of the Lord reached out and touched a leper’s skin, healing him (Matthew 8)
  • The arm of the Lord reached out and touched a deaf man’s ears, healing him (Mark 7)
  • The arm of the Lord reached out and touched blind men’s eyes, healing them (Matthew 9)
  • The arm of the Lord reached out and touched a disabled woman, healing her (Luke 13)
  • The arm of the Lord reached out and touched Peter’s mother-in-law, healing her (Matthew 8)
  • The arm of the Lord reached out and touched a dead child, bringing her to life (Matthew 9)
  • The arm of the Lord reached out and touched little children, praying for them (Matthew 19)
  • The arm of the Lord reached out and touched Malchus’s severed ear, restoring it (Luke 22)

The list goes on. Reaching, touching, saving, healing. Jesus came with outstretched arms. He tangibly demonstrated both God’s love and power. He ministered, He empathized, He astonished. The arm of the Lord = the arms of Jesus.

So, let’s return to Isaiah’s question: To whom was the arm of the Lord revealed? Really, of all people in history, it was revealed most vividly and memorably to the people of Israel, again and again and again, through Jesus. And what did they do? How did they react?

You know the story.

They took the arms of the Lord—those very same arms that had lovingly touched the sick and gingerly raised the dead and performed countless miracles—and nailed them to a cross. Just as the prophets foretold. For it was with an outstretched arm that God redeemed the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. And it is with the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross that God redeems us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

One thought on “The Arm(s) of the Lord

  1. Wow! Really never thought about the meaning the “arm of The Lord ” thank- you for that thought… I will need to chew on it.

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