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 (Isaiah 40:10–11, esv).
Have you ever given much thought to God’s arms? (“God has arms?” you might be wondering.) When God describes His arms, He doesn’t tell us their circumference or how much He can lift—those are human, physical terms, like the jock showing off at the gym. But God’s description of His arms tells us some awesome things about Him. In fact, the dual description of God’s arms in this passage shows us His power and His comfort.
“Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him.” When the Bible talks about God’s right arm, it refers to His powerful, ruling arm—His justice, His holiness, and His strength. God is like that. He is all that and more.
But then the very next verse describes His tender shepherd arm. “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.” If you’ve spent any time in church, sadly you’ve probably heard one extreme or the other: a ton of preaching about the transcendent, holy, awesome Judge or a ton of preaching about the tender, loving, merciful Shepherd. But He’s both, right? In this passage we clearly see both. Don’t let God’s nearness minimize His transcendence nor let His transcendence make you think He isn’t very aware of you individually.
Imagine a shepherd in the fields, and this gives you a picture of God. A shepherd can oversee hundreds of sheep, but he holds only one at a time. He gathers the lambs one by one in his arms. The point here is that this awesome God cares for you. Personally. Individually. Yes, He’s guarding a big flock, but when He cares for the lambs, He tends to them one by one. This is God’s love for you. Personal. Individual. Attentive. Aware. Devoted. That’s how He cares for you.
When He carries His lambs, He holds them “in his bosom.” Picture that. He doesn’t hold us awkwardly squirming at arms’ length. No, He draws us close, right to His own heart.
And He will “gently lead those that are with young.” The sheep that is about to give birth is vulnerable, with unique needs. And the shepherd accommodates those needs. In the same way, when our needs are great, the Lord is that much more attentive to us. Some of us are at a point of acute need right now in our business or in our family. God knows what it is. And just as pressing as that need is, His attention matches that. He’s on it! He is right there, gently leading those whose circumstances demand additional care.
So which one is He – mighty or tender? Yes. His arm is a picture of absolute power and unconditional love.
That’s your King. That’s your Shepherd.
As I behold You, my Lord God, I am in awe of who You are. You are the King. You rule the universe with Your feet up. Absolute power. You are also my Shepherd. You lovingly hold me close and tend to my heart. Absolute love. Open my eyes that I may see You more clearly, and stir in me fresh worship and love for You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6, esv).
The message of faith permeates not only Hebrews 11, but the entire New Testament. You’ll find faith on every page and in every story. Every step with God is a step of faith. Every lesson learned is a lesson of faith. Every victory won is a victory by faith.
The point is this: faith is not a part of the Christian life; it’s the whole thing.
Faith is unlike the fruit of the Spirit, such as patience, kindness, and gentleness; unlike spiritual gifts, such as teaching, service, and acts of mercy; unlike spiritual disciplines, such as worship, prayer, and meditation. Faith is not one part among assorted components. The Christian life is a life of faith.
Genuine followers of Christ trust God and exercise active confidence in Him. They believe His Word and act on it no matter how they feel, because He promises a good result. When we exercise our faith, we have forward spiritual momentum. When we let our faith atrophy, we lose ground and fall away from Him.
Some Christians wonder if this contradicts 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Yes, love is the greatest element relationally—and in that sense, love is greater than faith, because it influences others powerfully.
But biblical love is built on the foundation of faith. We can’t even begin to love as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13:13, or as Jesus describes in John 13:35, until faith in Jesus Christ has bridged the gap between God and us. Because faith forms our basic relationship with God, it is the foundational element of the Christian life. Love for others flows out of that faith relationship.
Every good thing God wants to bring to our lives comes through faith.
Faith is essential… because of its centrality, the cry of the Reformation was sola fide, which means “by faith alone.” According to Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God].” No faith means no relationship with our Creator. With faith, we begin an eternal relationship with Him and grow closer as our faith increases.
Which begs the question—assuming you have faith in God, how do you increase it? Paul gives a clear answer. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Mystery solved! That’s what increases faith: the Bible.
If a spiritual thermometer could measure the level of your faith, what would cause it to rise? The minutes, hours, and days you’ve spent immersed in God’s Word. Conversely, shallow faith, a fear-filled heart, or coldness toward God would indicate little time in the Word.
Faith grows by hearing the Word of God. Let’s close our computers, put down the devices, and start logging more time in His Book!
Lord God, I want to please You, which begins with faith. Thank You for the first dose of life-giving faith that began my relationship with You. I pray You would grow my faith as I do my part by spending time in Your Word. In the pages of Scripture, I see You clearly and know You act faithfully on behalf of Your people. Every evidence of You grows my faith. Thank You for who You are, a constant, true, good God in whom I can place unwavering confidence. You never fail me. In the name of Your Son Jesus Christ I pray, amen.