Peace in God's Arms
On the 2nd Sunday of Advent this year we will be reading Isaiah 40:1-11, a passage that promises peace and comfort to people in distress.
Isaiah was a prophet in the southern kingdom of Judah who ministered from approximately 745-695 B.C. In his preaching, Isaiah confronted the people over their sinful rebellion against God, warning them of the painful exile that would result from their behavior. He also told them that, though they would suffer because of their sinful choices, God would not forsake them. Rather, he would seek them and forgive them and, one day, he would bring them back home. Isaiah 40, one of the most cherished chapters in the Bible, is a moving description of the comfort and peace that will come to the future exiles when God brings them home.
In the New Testament, the ministry of John the Baptist is associated with the prophecy of Isaiah 40. This says something striking about the identity of Jesus. John is identified as the voice crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way for the LORD (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; Jn. 1:23). John the Baptist was preparing the people for the advent of Jesus. Thus, Jesus himself is identified as Israel’s God who will restore us from the exile that was brought about by our sin.
Two times in this passage Isaiah mentions the “arm” of God. Each time God’s arm is described as performing a different action. Each of these actions can bring us great comfort.
In verse 10, we read, “Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him …” Here we see the Lord rolling up his sleeves, flexing his muscles, and going to battle on behalf of his people. His arm is mighty. His arm is strong. He fights on behalf of his children to defend them are restore them.
In verse 11, we read, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Here God’s arms are gentle and comforting. They are arms that hold us and carry us in their warm embrace.
It may be that today you need God to fight for you. You are facing fierce opposition or difficult challenges, and you need a God who will battle on your behalf. It may be that today you need God to carry you in his embrace. You are weary and hurting and, like a young lamb, you need to be held. Isn’t it comforting to read of a God who promises to do both things for us?