You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:9-11 NIV
We know the story. We can sing at least the first verse of all the songs that tell the story. It’s the one story we know that we can at least partially quote both Old Testament and New Testament verses about.
Old Testament: “For unto us __________.”
New Testament: “And the Angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you ________.'”
You probably got a loose version of both those verses quoted and you probably could do more with coaxing.
But did you notice His arms? Isaiah 40:10 says, “See the sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm.” I missed that one in most of the Christmas verses. Other prophetic passages say, “And the government will be upon his shoulders,” so if the shoulders are involved the arms probably come along. Government and arms sound like authority. This could be why we don’t remember these passages. Our nature resists authority. The only authority we tend to want is our own! And the passage shouldn’t be only interpreted individually. I believe the implication is universal authority. That makes sense. If we believe the scriptures that Jesus was involved in the beginning of the world then it would be appropriate for him to rule His creation with a mighty arm.
But here is the interesting part. Isaiah 40:11 reads, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” Arms of authority and arms of compassion appear in one Savior. No wonder the prophet said to go tell it on the mountain. You don’t find those attributes in a king very often.
And you do remember how the whole story goes right? This king comes wrapped in swaddling clothes, grows up on our planet, shows the sheep he shepherds how to love, and stretches out His arms on a cross to bear our sin. Isaiah told us He would. Look back at the passage. Right between ruling with a mighty arm and gathering the sheep in his arms, Isaiah says this, “See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” Bible scholars can mince the words about what Isaiah really meant to say but at the end of the discussion I bet they would say that the passage does have the implication that ultimately the reward he brought was himself, and the recompense ultimately is paid by suffering with his arms outstretched for our sake and salvation.
His arms embrace us at Christmas and for eternity.
Dean C. Collins