One of those terms we encounter over and over in scripture is “the arm of the Lord”. Usually it is said to be “outstretched”—active in doing something, not passive. Sometimes we find the Lord’s “right hand” referred to; often enough, in context it’s equivalent to the arm. Here’s a quick look at a small number of passages where it’s used — and some thoughts on what it means to us. I think there’s more to be dug out — go to it!
By far the most frequent mention of God’s arm is the might He displayed in delivering Israel from Egypt. The arm of the Lord is judgment, and also deliverance. A couple, out of dozens:
Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.” (Exodus 6:6)
For they [Israel] are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm. (Deuteronomy 9:29)
But this isn’t the first revelation of the arm of the Lord. That would be the very beginning, the creation:
It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. (Jeremiah 27:5)
Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32:17)
Perhaps more directly applicable to believers on a personal level, salvation is accomplished by the arm of the Lord. It was true for God’s Anointed, and is true for all who belong to him:
Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. (Psalm 20:6)
I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him, so that my hand shall be established with him; my arm also shall strengthen him. (Psalm 89:20-21)
Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. (Psalm 98:1-2)
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. (Luke 1:51, from Mary’s inspired prayer about the advent of the Anointed)
In fact, the Anointed becomes the arm of the Lord and the right hand of the Lord. All through the New Testament we read of Jesus being exalted to sit at God’s right hand. Several Messianic passages in the Old Testament are prophetic of the Anointed taking on the role of the right hand, the outstretched arm:
Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly, the right hand of the LORD exalts, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!” (Psalm 118:15-16, a Messianic psalm)
Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. (Isaiah 40:10 – a passage quoted multiple times in the New Testament)
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:37-38 – the revealed arm of the Lord being Jesus)
And here’s something else. The Lord’s salvation by His outstretched arm is something that becomes known, and it draws others to God and to His people. What God does with his outstretched arm is testimony to Him. Solomon prays it, and God Himself declares it:
Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel. (2 Chronicles 6:32-33)
My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait. (Isaiah 51:5)
Let’s put it together. The outstretched arm of the Lord is His immense power. Part of that power is in executing judgment. (This is a facet of God that our present culture doesn’t like. But it’s reinforced repeatedly in scripture.) The arm is revealed particularly to save, to deliver — Israel, David, Jesus, us. As Jesus is the manifestation of God in so many ways, by his victory he becomes the arm of the Lord, with all that implies. The Lord’s saving work, through His arm (or should I say Arm), shouts out throughout the world:
“Come to me! I can save you!”
Are we still paying attention to the Arm of the Lord who saved us?
Israel’s attention strayed…and the arm of the Lord ended up stretched out against them! Better we should keep up the glad songs of salvation, and pray — as so many of the prophets did — for the arm (the Arm!) of the Lord to be revealed throughout the earth.