THE WORD: The strong arm of God

PHOTO CAPTION: “The Good Shepherd” in the Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome (circa 300 A.D.) (Dnalor 01 | CC BY-SA 3.0) 

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!” Deuteronomy 33:27

The image of a child in the strong arms of a father or a single path of footprints in the sand are metaphors of how The Almighty protects and strengthens humanity.

At the two extremes of life, childhood and old age — this promise comes with special assurance.

“He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom” (Isaiah 40:11), is a word for the children.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He; I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:4), brings its blessed comfort to the aged.

The thought of God’s embracing arms is very suggestive. What does an arm represent?

One suggestion, is protection. As a father puts his arm about his child when it is in danger — so God protects His children. Life is full of peril. Enemies lurk in every shadow — enemies strong and swift. Yet we are assured that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  

Another thought, is affection. The father’s arm drawn around a child — is a token of love. The mother holds the child in her bosom, because she loves it. This picture of God embracing His children in His arms — tells of His love for them — His love is tender, close, intimate.

Another thought suggested by an arm, is strength. The arm is a symbol of strength. His arm is omnipotence. “In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4). His is an arm that can never be broken. Out of this clasp — we can never be taken. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever. No one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28)

Another suggestion is endurance. The arms of God are “everlasting.” Human arms grow weary even in love’s embrace; they cannot forever press the child to the bosom. Soon they lie folded in death.

There is another important suggestion in the word “underneath.” Not only do the arms of God embrace His child — but they are underneath — always underneath. That means that we can never sink — for these arms will ever be beneath us.

Sometimes we say the waters of trouble are very deep; like great floods they roll over us. But still and forever, underneath the deepest floods — are these everlasting arms. We cannot sink below them — or out of their clasp.

And when death comes, and every earthly thing is gone from beneath us, and we sink away into what seems darkness — out of all human love, out of warmth and gladness and life — into the gloom and strange mystery of death — still it will only be — into the everlasting arms.

This view of God’s divine care is full of inspiration and comfort. We are not saving ourselves. A strong One, the mighty God — holds us in His omnipotent clasp. We are not tossed like a leaf on life’s wild sea — driven at the mercy of wind and wave. We are in divine keeping. Our security does not depend upon our own feeble, wavering faith — but upon the omnipotence, the love, and the faithfulness of the unchanging, the eternal God.

No power in the universe can snatch us out of His hands. Neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come — can separate us from His everlasting arms. 

J.R. Miller was a pastor and former editorial superintendent of the Presbyterian Board of Publication from 1880 to 1911. His works are now in the public domain.