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  • Writer's pictureRick LoPresti

The arm of the Lord

The Bible is the greatest piece of literature ever written. Not only is it the word of God, it is excellent literature. It uses many different literary styles and devices and covers a wide array of topics. Although it is generally meant to be taken literally, it also uses many devices of symbolism. One such device is anthropomorphism. This is attributing human characteristics to God. God is a Spirit (Jn 4:24), and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Lk 24:39). So, when the Bible ascribes physical characteristics to God, it is not being literal. It is describing God in a way we can relate to and understand. The only body God ever had or has is the body He manifested Himself in - the man Jesus Christ (Jn 1:1-3 & 14, Jn 14:7-11, 2Cor 5:19, Col 2:9, 1Tim 3:16). God is eternal and infinite (Is 57:15, Jer 23:24). He created time and space (Gen 1). Yet He manifested Himself in time and space through the person of the man Jesus Christ (Ps 2:7, Heb 10:5). Jesus is the visible part of the invisible God (Jn 1:18, Rom 8:29, 2Cor 4:4, Col 1:15, Heb 1:3). God is not a person except in the person of Jesus Christ.

One of the anthropomorphic phrases the Bible uses to describe God is "right hand". God does not literally have a right hand. Since most people are right handed, this is a way to describe authority and power (Gen 48:13-18, Deut 33:2, Job 40:14, Ps 17:7, Ps 18:35, Ps 20:6, Ps 44:3, Ps 89:13, Ps 98:1, Ps 118:15-16). The first time this expression is used about God is right after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea (Ex 15:16). God not only demonstrated His power to the Israelites in that seminal moment, but to Egypt and the whole world both then and forever (2Sam 7:23). This incident is referred to throughout the Bible and is still an important event today. To sit on one's right hand is to be in a place of honor (1Ki 2:19, 1Chr 6:39, Mt 25:33). After Jesus ascended to heaven, He sat down at the right hand of the Father (Ps 110:1, Mt 22:44, Mt 26:64, Mk 16:19, Acts 2:34, Acts 7:55, Rom 8:34, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Heb 1:3 & 13, Heb 8:1, Heb 10:12, Heb 12:2, 1Pet 3:22). It was the man Jesus that died, rose again, and ascended. God did not die. Jesus was risen and exalted by the right hand of God (Acts 2:33, Acts 5:31). God is omnipresent or everywhere (Ps 139:7-10). He is infinite and does not have a size. He is not limited by space. There is no literal place such as the right hand of God. After Jesus humbled Himself and died for us, He was exalted (Phil 2:1-11).

Another similar phrase in the Bible is "the arm of the Lord" (Ps 89:10 & 13, Ps 98:40, Is 51:9, Is 62:8, Acts 13:17). God's arm is described as being stretched out (Ex 6:6, Deu4 4:34, Deut 5:15, Deut 7:19, Deut 9:29, Deut 11:2, Deut 26:8, 1Ki 8:42, 2Ki 17:36, 2Chr 6:32, Ps 136:12, Jer 21:5, Jer 27:5, Jer 32:21, Eze 20:33-34). When someone stretches out their arm, it is to do something with it. So, this is a way to describe God's power in action. God in His divinity does not have a literal arm. When the Bible says that God bears His arm, it means He shows His power (Is 52:10). When the Bible says God damaged someone's arm, it means He took their power (Job 38:15, Ps 10:15, Jer 48:35, Eze 30:21, Zech 11:17).

Although "right hand" and "arm of the Lord" refer to God's authority and power and a place of honor, there is another meaning. The manifestation of God in the flesh to be our Savior is also described as the arm of the Lord (Is 53:1, Is 59:16, Is 63:5, Jn 12:38). It seems ironic or paradoxical to think that God coming down in human form and limitation to suffer and die for our sins is a demonstration of power and authority. That is because the way of the world is the opposite of the ways of God (Is 55:7-9, Jam 4:1-4, 1Jn 2:15-17). Man sees power as being able to control others (Mt 20:20-28), but God sees a greater power than that. That is the power to humble yourself and serve others (Jn 10:17-18, Phil 2:1-11). God is the Creator, Lord, and Father of all including angels (Heb 1); but the greatest demonstration of His power was at the cross of Jesus Christ. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves. He paid for our sins with His own blood (Acts 20:28), and provided for our forgiveness and salvation. We all deserve the eternal wrath and judgment of God in hell (Rom 3:23, Rom 6:23), but He chose to offer repentance, forgiveness, and redemption to us all. He made the ultimate sacrifice of love (Jn 15:13). He showed us that the greatest power is to give, not receive (Acts 20:35). The Lord set the greatest example which will never be equaled, but we can follow in His footsteps (Mt 16:24, Jn 21:19-22, 1Pet 2:21). By putting the kingdom of God first (Mt 6:33), and by serving others, we can be like Him. God is not impressed by man's military, political, or financial power. What pleases Him is keeping His commandments and helping others to do so.

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