There are many symbols in the bible. Many of those symbols refer to an aspect of God, the Spirit, or Jesus. In the case of God, his ability to reach into the doings of humankind is shown in a symbol of His mighty Arm, or His right hand. I focus on His arm.
I was listening to a sermon by RC Sproul on Mary’s Magnificat, and in Luke 1:51, Mary extols the strength of the LORD by His arm in saying,
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; (Luke 1:51)
Here are other verses which do the same:
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1)
You Yourself crushed Rahab like one who is slain; You scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm. (Psalms 89:10)
“Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” (Exodus 6:6)
“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)
The human arm is often used in the Bible to symbolize spiritual strength or power. The word is first used in Jacob’s dying prophecy concerning His beloved son Joseph: “But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24).
The source of all true strength is in the mighty God, so it is not surprising to find at least 40 biblical references to the Lord’s powerful “arm” or “arms.” One of the most striking is our text, promising that when God “bares His arm” for His great work of delivering the lost world from its bondage to Satan and sin and death, then the whole world will see His salvation (literally, His “Jesus”).
It is an interesting article, please feel free to click the link and read the rest.
The arm of the LORD symbolizes many aspects of Himself, but for now we focus on the strength. How much more can we see the lack of strength when we contrast the following verse,
|He stomps the earth but his arm is withered!|
“Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!” (Zechariah 11:17)
That powerful chapter of Zechariah depicts a several-fold prophecy over the course of time. Zechariah is prophesying about Israel’s future rejection of Christ. Here is an outline of the verses’ meanings by Roy Gingrich:
3. The coming of a false shepherd (11:15–17)
(Because Israel rejected Her true Shepherd, God will chasten her by giving her a false shepherd. There is already a time gap of more than 1900 years between verses 11:14 and 11:15.)
a. His character—He will be “a foolish, (wicked) shepherd.” The Old Testament writers often associated foolishness and wickedness. See Psa. 14:1.
b. His identity—He is: (1) The “little horn,” Dan. 7:8; (2) “the desolator,” Dan. 9:27; (3) “the willful king,” Dan. 11:36; (4) “the man of sin,” 2 Thes. 2:3; and (5) the “Antichrist,” 1 John 2:18.
c. His origin—God will indirectly raise him up to punish His people, 11:16. Satan will directly raise him up to promote his end-time total rebellion against God, 2 Thes. 2:4; Rev. 19:19.
d. His ruthless ministry—He will not feed, but will fleece, the flock. He will not tend, but will tear, the flock. He will not edify, but will eat, the flock. He will not feed, but will feed on, the flock.
e. His punishment (his end)—He will receive woe. His right arm (with which he slew the sheep) will be completely dried up and his right eye (with which he looked upon the sheep for evil) will be completely blinded. These things mean he will be utterly destroyed, Dan. 9:27; 2 Thes. 2:8; Rev. 19:20. God will first use and then punish this masterpiece of Satan.
Gingrich, R. E. (1999). The Books of Haggai and Zechariah (p. 52). Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing.
|The worthless shepherd will strike the sheep, but the LORD will wither his arm.
This foolish and wicked shepherd Zechariah speaks of is the prophesied antichrist, also spoken of in the book of Daniel. John MacArthur writes of the Zechariah verse,
With the removal of the true shepherd, the drama called for the prophet to play a foolish shepherd, who depicted the antichrist of Daniel’s 70th week. (cf. 2 Thess 2:3; John 5:43; Dan 9:27). Zechariah’s prophecy jumped from the first century A.D. to the last days before the second coming, omitting the present mystery of the church age.
This foolish (wicked) shepherd had a broken staff or club that he used to beat stubborn sheep into submission, something clearly inappropriate for a shepherd who thoughtfully and carefully cared for his sheep. Because they did not choose the good shepherd, Israel will do a foolish one who will do absolutely the opposite of what is expected of shepherds. He will destroy the sheep (11:16). This is exactly what the antichrist does. (cf. Dan 9:27, Matthew 24:15-22). Source: MacArthur Study Bible: Note on Zech 11:17
In returning to the symbolism of the arm, we have a great God whose arm is stretched out to perform mighty deeds, the mightiest is that Jesus is God’s arm. Christ is the power of God unto salvation (cf Isaiah 53:1, 52:10)
Thus the foolish shepherd is also a worthless shepherd who rightfully deserves the condemnation pronounced (Woe). The arm indicates his strength and the eye his intelligence. The foolish plottings of the worthless shepherd will be annulled when the True Shepherd returns (cf. 12:10; Rev. 19:19–20).
The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.)
We can ponder the mightiness of the arm of the LORD in giving His Son to us. Whether one meets the Messiah Redeemer as friend or foe, His mighty arm will be extended to perform wonders and holy perfections. He will wither the arm of the worthless shepherd. He will strengthen His saints. He will direct His angels. He will cast the rebels into the Lake of Fire. His arm does wonders, forever!
Let Us Reason Ministries: The Arm and Right Hand of the LORD
Alexander MacLaren, The Arm of the Lord from his Expositions of Isaiah and Jeremiah