Everlasting Arms - July 28, 2011
Hebrews 10:31 - It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
What do we think of when we consider the Lord's "Everlasting Arms"? Many of us hearken to the chorus of that old hymn of the same name:
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms!
The first line of the first stanza declares ... What a fellowship, what a joy divine ... which sets the tone of God's loving joy and security as we rest in the Father's arms. For truly, in his presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11) If we know the Lord, it is our heritage as born-again, blood-bought believers to lean ever-so securely against the chest of our "Papa", knowing that He will cradle us in His love. In so doing, we know that He will protect us from all evil. Probably no scripture depicts this better than in the thirty-third chapter of Deuteronomy: The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms; And He drove out the enemy from before you, And said, "Destroy!" (Deuteronomy 33:27) The Lord is certainly our hiding place when the enemy of our soul besieges us.
While this is a wondrous word picture for the redeemed, we see the strength of those same loving arms manifested through His divine hands less approachable concerning those who reject Christ's salvation. The omnipotent strength of those mighty arms become formidable and terrifying instruments of justice to those who would spurn His great love. The figure of speech "to fall into someone's hands", in Middle Eastern culture, meant to succumb as the vanquished to one's conqueror. For the victor to place their foot on the neck of their captive was the most humiliating position for a defeated foe. (Joshua 10:24) At this point, they were totally helpless and subject to any sort of torture or death at the hands of their new masters. The Lord prophesied through His servant Moses regarding the future state of Israel after centuries of apostasy and idolatry. He stated that the day would come when Israel would be delivered into their enemies' hands much in the same way as He would deliver the Canaanites into Joshua's hands after Moses' death. (Leviticus 26:25) Then, God's chosen people would understand the terror first-hand they had centuries before inflicted when they conquered the land. His hands would become those horrific implements of their own destruction because they had forsaken God their Savior.
The children of Israel were not unique to apostasy. Countless others since the time of Israel's idolatry have followed in similar ways. During the early 18th century in New England America, there was a similar falling away from the faith and a subsequent correction. As more New Englanders moved from a rural to urban lifestyles, communities were often bereft of devout church-goers instituted by the Puritan way of life. People, in general, often became more interested in making money than observing the Sabbath and attending church. Because people were living in more concentrated areas, diseases such as Diphtheria were allowed to spread with rapid fluency. As thousands died from such outbreaks, many were driven back to the churches in a sort of desperation. Surely, the enemy had placed his foot on their necks and they were mercilessly held captive in the hands of sin and disease. During this time, revivalists such as Jonathan Edwards rose up with prophetic unction to minister God's pronouncement of their current situation in a two-fold manner. Number one ... that they were rebels of God and had acted with high treason against the Son of God and His eternal gift of salvation. Furthermore, they were nothing but insects before God that dangled over the flames of hell and were only kept from the eternal torment by the mercy of God. And number two ... that only through God's mercy and grace could they ever hope to be delivered from the deserved fate. In Edward's sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, he describes his congregation's present horror in the Almighty's hands, and their only salvation in His everlasting arms:
... The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.
... And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.
Today, many are in the same lackadaisical mindset of those in ancient Israel, and, more recently, the Congregationalists of Edward's day. Salvation and eternal condemnation has never been nearer for any of us as it is at this very moment. Some may believe that their "fire insurance policy" is paid up and that they will never have to worry about the eternal flames lapping upon their eternal flesh. While salvation is a done deal for those who are truly saved, it is an uncertainty for those who choose to rest in the arms of this world instead of the everlasting arms. The scripture is clear that those who don't remain passionately in the arms of their Savior were possibly never truly saved. (I John 2:19) Beloved, we all have the choice to either lean upon the arms and the breast of God, or to embrace this adulteress world. The latter promises us to be thrown into hands that will terrify us when we step into eternity. We all have the chance to choose mercy and His perfect love in this life, so we will not have to partake in the judgment to come. May we all rest in His arms of love so we don't have to experience His hands of judgment in this life and the one to come.
Heavenly Father, we know You don't desire to terrify anyone. You desire that we all respond to Your great gift of salvation that You've most graciously given through the death of Jesus. May we rest in those everlasting arms in this life and the one to come. May you draw all who pray this prayer into that eternal relationship with You. In Jesus' Name, Amen!
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