The God Who Has Two Arms! Part 2
Isaiah 40:10-11, “Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 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.”
In our last article, we saw that God has a “ruling arm” (Omnipotence). In this article we will consider the “carrying arm” of God (Omnibenevolence).
Knowing the God of the Bible is spirit, with no body parts, we must understand that when the Scriptures speak of the arms of God it is using anthropomorphic language, which means using human words to express the inexpressible truth of the essence of God’s person.
Isaiah’s differing uses of arm in our text is significant for their display of the two complementary sides of God’s nature. In the previous 39 chapters the prophet Isaiah has shown how one can depend on the ruling, omnipotent arm of God to bring judgment on those who break his covenant. Now he begins to show how one can equally depend on God’s carrying arm to defend and care for those who will turn to him.
God would have his people know that in Him, greatness always works in union with gentleness, and power is always linked with affection.
To say of God that He is great is not “good” enough. Millard Erickson reminds us that, God, though great, "might conceivably be an immoral or amoral being, exercising his power and knowledge in a capricious or even cruel fashion”. We must proceed in our understanding of the nature of our God from His greatness to His goodness.
God is Omnibenevolent
This word comes from the Latin word omni, meaning “all,” and the word benevolent, meaning “good” or “charitable.”
The "goodness" of God means very simply that He is benevolent. God's goodness may be manifested in the delay of severe judgment, in which case it’s His longsuffering. God's goodness as manifested in the restoration of the wretched is what the Bible calls mercy. God's goodness as manifested toward the guilty and undeserving is referred to in Scripture as grace. Grace is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity.
Is the one true and living God of the Bible really, “all good”? The most common objection to the assertion that God is omnibenevolent, as well as omnipotent and omniscient, is the problem of evil. If God is all-knowing and all-powerful and perfectly good, why does evil exist? Philosophers debate this question endlessly.
Timothy McCabe gives keen insight into the understanding of omnibenevolence as he notes: “The answer, as with most questions, depends on how one defines the terms. If "omnibenevolence" means that God is always and perfectly desiring "the good", then yes, God is omnibenevolent (Mark 10:18; Romans 12:2). If, on the other hand, it means that God is always and only desiring the eternal and ultimate happiness of all humans, then no, God is not omnibenevolent (1 Samuel 15:2-3; Genesis 6:7).
“God Himself is the measure of all things, and "the good" is that which glorifies Him. Many would argue that if God is omnibenevolent, as Christians assert, then He would never send anyone to hell. However, this is to misunderstand the Christian claim. Humanist values, elevating humans above all things (including God Himself) are absurd on the face of them and have absolutely no part in Christian thought.
“Our omnibenevolent God instead glorifies Himself first and foremost (Isaiah 48:9; Ezekiel 20:9; Matthew 19:29, 24:9), as He should, since He Himself is the ground of all being (Exodus 3:14; Genesis 1:1; John 1:3) and the author of all legitimate ethical standards (Malachi 3:18). God Himself is the measure of all things, and "the good" is that which glorifies Him. Since it glorifies Him to punish sin, and since glorifying Him is the ultimate in goodness, it follows that of course an omnibenevolent God will punish sin.
“If you have ever sinned - and you have - this creates a problem for you (Romans 3:23).”
When we say that God is omnibenevolent, we are saying that God is absolutely good and that no action or motive or thought or feeling or anything else about Him is not purely good. He is “all-good.”
The original Saxon meaning of our English word "God" is "The Good." God is not only the Greatest of all beings, but the Best. All the goodness there is in any creature has been imparted from the Creator, but God’s goodness is underived, for it is the essence of His eternal nature.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the “Good” Shepherd (John 10:11). In such capacity, we can rest confident that the arm that rules as a Prince with power is also the arm that leads and feeds with the kind heart of a Shepherd. He will gather His sheep despite their weakness, for His strength will be made perfect in their weakness (2Cors. 12:9). He will gather them in when they wander, gather them up when they fall, gather them together when they are scattered, and gather them home to himself when their appointment with death comes; and all this with his own arm, and no one will be able to pluck them out (John 10:28). He carries them in the bosom of his love and sings over them for joy (Zephaniah 3:17).When they are weary and worn, sick and faint, when they encounter hardships and hatred, rejection and ridicule, he will carry them as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and take care that none are left behind. He will gently lead them through all of life’s dangers, toils, and snares. He will pursue them with “goodness” and mercy all the days of their life.
The dominant inclination of our Good and Great Shepherd's heart is to continually purse us with His “goodness and mercy.” If you are one of his sheep, he is constantly watching after you, and His grace is constantly working in you. It is God’s nature to love sacrificially, selflessly, extravagantly, and beyond our wildest expectations. So surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life because that is who my Shepherd is!
The great 40th chapter of Isaiah concludes with the promise that the ruling and carrying arm of God will empower us to be victorious over and in every exigency of life: "He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
More in Pastor Wade's Blog
March 27, 2023We Are at Risk of “Burnout” in a Short-term Sprint for Jesus!
March 27, 2023Replacing Discipleship with Dreaming!
February 16, 2023The Wrath of God