Salvation in the Arms of our Lord
No one is there for me no cares no one listens
if only there would be on person in this world to care
I’d talk to myself but that does not get me anywhere
Lost in an unfamiliar world like an alien on earth no one to teach me their way
no one to show me how not to cry no one to take the pain away
on a road to nowhere is where I’m going I’m on my way.
A middle school girl wrote this the other day. She asked me to read it and I was blown away by two things: 1) she has a gift for writing; 2) the despair that a middle school student has to live with as this was written by someone who is really struggling as her loneliness drips onto paper. What do you say to that?
Tonight I received a message telling of a car accident involving a member of a rodeo association I am apart of. Her 6-year-old grandson was killed in the accident. She is having surgery Monday for a broken back and pelvis. They are an awesome family that serves the association and everyone around them. What needs to be said in this situation? What message needs to shine through?
In tracking through the anthropomorphisms of the LORD, I continually find myself in awe of the character and nature of God. But that awe is quickly replaced by the thought of His infatuation with us. At our loneliest, our most isolated, our darkest hour, when all glory has faded from our lives, God is still at work. When the noise of this world overpowers our song, the Lord’s whisper rules the day. When all strength has left our bodies and our will is held on with the thinnest of threads, it is the LORD whose power strains on our behalf. When we feel most lost, God’s salvation is our way home.
There wasn’t a time when Israel felt more lost than the Exile. As the people of God wasted away in a foreign land, ruled by a godless people, and stripped of their identity, it was the “arm of the Lord” who would save them. Isaiah writes:
“Because of your sins you were sold, because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? (Isaiah 50.1-2)
The “arm” [ zeroa] of Yahweh has shown up in some key places. But where this anthropomorphism really saturates the text is in the last third of the Book of Isaiah. It’s no coincidence that this metaphor for salvation comes through most often from the pen of a man whose name means “Yahweh is Salvation.” Isaiah’s ministry ran through the ups and downs of history. As his book starts out: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotam, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” (1.1) Uzziah was a great king, who led Judah for 52 years of prosperity and stability. (2 Chron. 26.4) But the power and success went to his head and he turned his back on God (2 Chron. 26.16) Jotham, did his best to walk in the ways of God, even if the people didn’t. (2 Chronicles 27:2, 6) Ahaz forgot everything his father had done and made an absolute mess of the kingdom of Judah (2 Chron. 28.1-4, 22). His idol worship and child sacrfices took Judah to a height of unfaithfulness it had never seen! But his son Hezekiah would right the ship and lead Judah in repentance and faithfulness (2 Chronicles 29:2). One of Hezekiah’s greatest deeds of faithfulness was his prayer to God, as the armies of Sennarcherib of Assyria, a couple hundred thousand strong, encircled Jerusalem (Isaiah 37.14ff.). Because of his prayer, the Lord sent and Angel to kill 185,000 Assyrians and the siege was lifted and Jerusalem saved (37.36-37). Hezekiah carried the message of survival from God (37.21). But he also carried the word of destruction:
“Hear the word of the Lord Almighty. The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away…” (Isaiah 39.5-7)
He carried the message from God, that a country that hadn’t yet reached its full power, Babylon, will destroy Judah. A reality that will come to fruition in just over 100 years from this prophecy. Imagine if the book had ended there on that depressing note, with death, destruction, and depression. Isaiah, however, understands that the story isn’t over, God isn’t done with Judah. Exile to Babylon is not the final act of this play. The remaining 26 chapters are about the future that will become of Judah after their time in exile. It is in these chapters that Isaiah spins some beautiful poetic language and metaphor, with the arm of the Lord being a significant thread. Isaiah 50.1-2 says:
“Because of your sins you were sold, because of your transgressions your mother was sent away….Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert…”
The sin of Judah will put them in exile, but the “arm of the Lord” will bring them out. Yahweh is asking a rhetorical question: “Was my arm too short to ransom you?” It is a question asked two other times in scripture (Num 11.23; Isaiah 59.1) each time in the context of some act of saving. In classic Hebrew parallelism, He forms the question again in a different way: “Do I lack the strength to rescue you?” He asks the question twice expecting the same answer. To “ransom” [hb. pedut] and “rescue” [hb. nasal]. Isaiah loves the “rescue” idea (used 22 times in his book), however, in the rest of the book, nasal is usually translated “deliverer” with a clear nod to the Exodus story. As for “ransom”, it is used only 3 other places in scripture, each time with redemption in mind. So God asks the question, quite emphatically. It’s a question of capability. “Was my arm too short to ransom you?” In the Hebrew short is repeated twice for emphasis, an attempt by God to show the gravity of the situation alongside His ability to triumph. The arm of the Lord is there to save.
What was the length to which the LORD went to save us? It’s an incredible story. Are we ever too far from his grasp? It is a feeling that haunts many. Is the country ever to distant for His arm not to reach? Isaiah certainly understood it not possible. Isaiah 59.1-2:
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save…But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”
It was our choice, our sin that distanced us, and the nation of Judah, from God. I for one am growing ever more aware of the sin, addiction, and depravity, from which I was saved. As my awareness increases, so does my understanding of what the world needs saving from as well. Just as in the poem that started this thought, the world is in need of salvation from despair, of release from bondage, and a shot of hope. Is God’s arm to short to save? I have seen many from greater depths than surround me, from more dire circumstances than I have known, from greater wildernesses than I have imagined, reached by the long arm of salvation of the LORD. The next 5 verses (Isaiah 50.4-9) was a prophecy about Jesus, the suffering servant, come to earth. A visual representation of the length of God’s love, the distance He would go to bring salvation to His people. How great is the arm of salvation of the LORD. An arm that is reaching out to a 7th grade girl, a grandmother in need of healing, wrapped around a 6year old boy as we speak, and embracing a sinner like me!
What is the arm of the Lord saving you from today? Do you feel His arms wrapped around you? Do you need to feel a hug from the Father today?