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6. GLORIOUS ARM
by Philip Owen

             The infinity of God’s glory is such that men cannot take it all in at once.  And so the Scriptures tend to focus on this or that aspect of God’s glory so that we might more readily consider and comprehend it.  A recurring image found in the inspired writings that concentrates our minds on a specific aspect of God’s glory is, as Isaiah puts it, the “glorious arm” of the Lord (Isa. 63:12).  The “arm of the Lord” is a figure of speech that describes God’s powerful, active working in the affairs of this world.  God’s “arm” may be described as glorious for a number of reasons among which we will mention three.

            God’s arm is glorious because of its quality.  One of the predominant thoughts associated with the arm of the Lord, hence, His work, is that it is powerful.  Ethan describes God’s arm as being “mighty” (Psa. 89:13); Jeremiah calls it “strong” (21:5).  God is able to do all that needs to be done and anything He wishes to do.  No one can stay His arm.  Since His power is limitless, we may take comfort in the fact that His arm is also “holy” (Psa. 98:1) and that what He does is always perfectly right.  We may rest assured that God’s “fixes” are permanent.  He offers no placebos and nothing that merely relieves pain without remedying its cause.  For Moses assures us that “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).  Finally, the work of God may be known only by revelation from God.  Isaiah asks rhetorically:  “to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (53:1).  Only God can make known to us all the glories of His creative, saving, and sanctifying work for us.

            God’s arm is glorious because of its activity.  The most frequent expression concerning the arm of the Lord is that God has a “stretched out” arm.  Nearly twenty times, especially in the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and Isaiah, this metaphor is used.  It especially describes three aspects of God’s work:  His arm is stretched out in creation (Jer. 32:17), in deliverance (Deut. 9:34, usually from Egypt), and in judgment (Jer. 21:5, both on Israel and her enemies).  In speaking of God’s outstretched arm, the Word reveals that God acts directly and personally in the lives of His people.  Ultimately, He comes to us, draws us, saves us from sin, and delivers us from trouble.  An outstretched arm is a metaphor for the truth that God is the Initiator and Deliverer of all grace.  We do not seek God; He seeks us.  And He alone saves.  “And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold:  therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury it upheld me” [during the tribulation period] (Isa. 63:5; see also Isa. 59:16).

            God’s arm is glorious because of its symbolism.  The analogy of Scripture suggests that when God works directly in the lives of men it is via His personal “Arm,” the Lord Jesus Christ.  All that God does on behalf of man, He does through the Son, whether that be creation (Col. 1:16), salvation (I Cor. 1:30), or preservation (Acts 17:28).  But nothing so glorifies God as the reality of His Son with His arms stretched out on the cross voluntarily making His soul an offering for our sin before God.  In every other case, when God stretched out His arm, it cost Him nothing.  But when it pleased God to redeem sinners from their sin, it cost the Father the fellowship of His Son; it cost the Son suffering, death, and the pouring out of the wrath of the Father on His perfect obedience.  God stretched out His arm so near to the earth and so close to men that God “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (I Cor. 5:21).  No wonder His arm is said to be glorious.  How we should praise Him that it reached even to you and to me.

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