Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Isaiah 53:1 - The Arm of the Lord

. . . and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

The "arm of the Lord" indicates God's decisive and powerful action, effecting the salvation of His people or bringing judgment upon His enemies. It is decidedly God's own action, accomplished entirely by Himself and not through a creature as His instrument. Consider these examples from the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 30:30 And the LORD will cause His voice of authority to be heard, and the descending of His arm to be seen in fierce anger, and in the flame of a consuming fire In cloudburst, downpour and hailstones.
Isaiah 40:10-11 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Isaiah 48:14 Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; he will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon, and His arm will be against the Chaldeans.
Isaiah 51:5 My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, and My arms will judge the peoples; The coastlands will wait for Me, and for My arm they will wait expectantly.
Isaiah 51:9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon?
Isaiah 52:10 The LORD has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see The salvation of our God.
Isaiah 59:16 And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him.
Isaiah 63:5 I looked, and there was no one to help, and I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; so My own arm brought salvation to Me, and My wrath upheld Me.
The question, "to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" would seem to have two possible meanings: either a saving work, or a work of judgment. Since the cross is both, it is difficult to ascertain which meaning is most intended by the prophet. Adding to this complication is the fact that "to whom" could properly be translated "upon whom." Further, "revealed" could refer to the uncovering of the arm (i.e., "rolling up the sleeves") in preparation for a decisive act of judgment, or it could refer to a saving revelation of Who or what the "arm" is. The Hebrew text seems to leave some options open. However, in this verse two seemingly opposite truths can be seen and known with certainty:

1. The cross reveals God's fierce arm of judgment against unbelief and sin.
2. The cross reveals Gods mighty arm of salvation for sinners who believe.

The greatest revelation of God's saving strength is found in the cross, and the most terrifying revelation of His awesome wrath is found in the cross. Judgment and mercy are potently and paradoxically displayed here. Let us never lose sight of TWO equally weighty messages declared in picturesque form by the cross: first, that GOD HATES AND JUDGES ALL SIN; second, that GOD LOVES AND SAVES SINNERS WHO TRUSTINGLY TURN TO HIM ON THE BASIS OF CHRIST'S SUFFERING IN THEIR PLACE.

The cross unveils both hell and heaven, sin and salvation, judgment and mercy, truth and grace, love and hatred, despair and joy, abject hopelessness and unconquerable optimism . . . all brought together in one place, in one historic event, as one finite bit of time folded inextricably into the eternal and timeless moment, one apparently contingent and changeable human circumstance united with the supra-chronological and eternally settled divine purpose, linking the soul of One Man to the entire human race, drawing spiritual poison into Himself and transferring life-giving Spirit back across the divide, demonstrating spiritual death in physical death, displaying spiritual life in physical resurrection, and through incalculable sacrifice purchasing everything that would ever be needed for dirty wretches to be brought into the favor of a pure and righteous Father.

The Gospel is God showing forth His mighty strength, saving His chosen ones, making known His great power through apparent weakness. It is the power of mercy to love the unlovely. It is power of grace to overcome sin. It is power of God's Spirit to effect repentance and draw faith from human hearts as water was drawn from the rock in the desert. It is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

1 comment:

  1. Really great insights! Judgement and mercy potently and paradoxically displayed in the cross...


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