Shortening God’s Arm
Indulge me another repost? I’m regrouping a bit. Some of these from the archives have much more to say than I do at the moment.
Just how long is Your arm, Father? How long is long enough for me?
The question formed as I knelt beside a queen bed in a hotel squeezed between Iowa cornfields. I rose early and lingered there before joining the growing crowd of family in the breakfast nook downstairs. I flipped through thin pages looking for Isaiah 59, wanting just one thing. I felt hungrier for the sustaining words of this one short verse than for an AmericInn breakfast no matter what the ads say.
Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. (Isaiah 59:1)
But I’m not good at just one verse. Raisin Bran would wait a little longer while I held up my bowl like Oliver and begged, Please, Sir, I want some mo’.
I got some mo’.
Mo’ than I know what to do with.
I know the problem is not God. His arm is long — long enough, even. And His hearing is sharp. Not too dull.
Making the problem, as always, me.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)
I stare at the back of the Father. I don’t gaze into the splendor of His face.
Enter my inability to wait until the end. I always read ahead.
The Redeemer will come to Zion . . . (Isaiah 59:20a)
The Redeemer will come, driven along by God’s own hot breath.
He doesn’t slip in quietly, unnoticed, but rather like a pent-up flood: rushing, roaring.
He surges in with his long arm, long enough to reach me, sufficient to bridge the gulf full up of my iniquity that threatens to turn Him away.
I take the tape, pull it from fingertip to shoulder and scrawl my findings in the record: Too short.
Your arm, Father, it is too short.
I considered in the days leading up to Resurrection Day the two who hung alongside Jesus on that place they called the Skull. How I wanted to see myself as the desperate one, the one who spent his last drops of juice on an all-or-nothing trust of One he’d just met: “Remember me, Jesus!”
But the one that looked more like me, he asked for no such thing. Knowing the answer to his own question, or at least thinking he did, he sneered, Aren’t you the Christ?
I see myself standing in the gravel at the foot of the cross, looking up at His ragged flesh as He groans His last.
He gasps, It is finished! while I shake a fist and scream back, No, it is not!
I would dare to tell Him He erred? Or was a fraud?
I would stand there, His blood dripping onto my face, and proclaim that He did not do enough? That He is not enough?
I would do this?
Clearly, it seems, I would.
This criminal and I, we hang side by side striving to do for ourselves what One we challenge as insufficient has already done.
Back to Isaiah 59. Strong words for the likes of me. Brutal, searing words that rip through my flesh. A scourge-striped arm — an arm that is not too short — stretches out to take hold of my collar and yanks me up from the dark hole where I hide.
He writes words, scarlet in the sand before my broken frame: No more! Do not go there again.
And in that moment I see what it is that I do. How I hang with mockers. How I trample His truth and His grace. How, with pride seeping, I find myself above and beyond His mercy.
I shake my head at Isaiah’s words, wondering at the audacity of those who would do such violence against God — those who would tell such lies, mutter these wicked things. They shed innocent blood, they hatch vipers and loose spiders and in the end try to cover their nakedness with mere cobwebs.
As my eyes come back from their roll I see them, there on my arms, my legs, my hands.
Have I sought to cover myself with this? Have I no more than fragile, dusty filaments which even a spider would leave behind?
The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace. (Isaiah 59:8)
So easy it is for me to see them as fools. They don’t know peace. They don’t know justice. They know nothing of straight roads.
No, they don’t know peace and they don’t know justice.
But then, neither do I.
So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:9a-10)
When He dares speak into the darkness, I know He speaks of me. He names me the fool. He knows how I am given to groping along the wall, failing to see the sun at midday. He sees the way I stumble for lack of light.
But His arm, it is so long.
Even for me.
The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was none to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. (Isaiah 59:15a-16)
He was appalled. Not so much at my iniquity (though He was that too) but at the absence of one to intervene.
So His own arm, that long one, worked salvation for Him.
The arm I keep whittling back until I leave but a stub.
The pent-up flood sweeps me away and as the waves crash over me, He holds my head under for a while, making me breathe in His intoxicating mercy.
When I surface, sputtering and gasping for air, He cautions in His quiet way.
Do not tell Me about loopholes and exceptions and rules made up just for you.
Do not tell Me it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t finished.
Do not scoff at My grace.
Do not dare think that to be sin for you was such a small thing.
“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 59:21)
That Redeemer’s arm, how I need to know it is long enough.
Linking up with Michelle today -- stop by and pick up a little something you can use all week long! Photo: River Access by TelegramSam