The bare arm of God

by Keith Bassham

The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)

I never quite understood passages like that one until it came to me that a warrior might take off a cloak in preparation for using his sword arm for combat, or he might raise his sword in a sign of victory causing his garment sleeve to slip off his arm and onto his shoulder. I like the first image better and imagine it to be some­thing like a modern “rolling up the sleeves” to prepare for some really hard labor. Imagine, God, whose handiwork is the construc­tion of the universe and all its wonders (Psalm 19:1: “the firmament showeth his handywork”), gets down to the real work and exerts his greatest power when it comes to saving and caring for the people of this earth by the giving of His Son for our sins. This is the image of the strong bare arm of the Lord placed alongside the picture of the suffering and dying savior in the opening words of Isaiah 53: “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?”

Back in the 1980s I pastored a church near Tinker Air Force Base just outside Oklahoma City. I saw the large and powerful airborne weaponry of our nation every day. I drove by the huge Lo­gistics Center regularly, and occasionally I would minister on base and mingle with people so very important to the safety and defense of our nation. The sheer power represented by those hangars and buildings and offices and aircraft could take your breath away. We consider executive mansions and houses of legislations and build­ings filled with logistics and armament to be symbols of this world’s power and we are impressed.

But if we want to see real power, the power of God with his sleeves rolled up and his arms bared, we might be surprised. The building housing the power turns out to be a stable in Bethlehem, and there from within a small bundle of cloth in the manger, a tiny little hand on the end of a bare arm reaches up to grasp the finger of his mother Mary — and that tiny arm represents the true power of God. For one day, that same arm was stretched out, as was the other, and with both his arms stretched out bare on the Cross, Jesus died for us, and in so doing, gave us the power to become the children of God.

As the scripture says, “The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” I pray, along with my assistants Rob Walker and Karri Joy Perry, that you, your families, and all those you touch this Christmas, experience the power of the bare arm of God.