“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.”
Music adds so much to the joy of Advent and Christmas. Many of the songs we love originated with people pondering Scripture. For example, the ever popular “Joy to the World” came from 18th century hymnist Isaac Watts prayerfully pondering Psalm 98.
I imagine that Mary also pondered Psalm 98 as she sang her own “new song” praising the Lord for His salvation:
O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
Have gained him victory (Psalm 98:1).
As Mary sang about the Lord showing “strength with his arm” she was well aware of the significance of the Lord’s arm throughout Scripture. The arm of the Lord was Biblical symbolism for God’s strength displayed in the world. In some 40 Old Testament references to the Lord’s arm it symbolizes not latent strength but the manifestation of that strength in history. The arm of the Lord alludes to both physical and spiritual deliverance of God’s people from their oppressors. Mary had likely lingered long over Scriptures that magnify the strength of God’s arm such as the following:
Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you (Jeremiah 32:17).
The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm brought him victory (Isaiah 59:15-16).
The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God (Isaiah 52:10).
Like Isaiah, Mary regards the Lord as a mighty warrior throwing back His loose robe to make bare His strong arm to bring salvation. But it is striking that the Lord’s mighty arm is also presented in Scripture as a person. Again and again the arm of the Lord is revealed to be a Savior, powerful to act on behalf of His people.
Eight hundred years before Mary the prophet Isaiah is incredulous that so few will believe when the Lord makes bare His strong arm:
Who has believed what we heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?…He was despised and rejected by others; a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account (Isaiah 53:1,3).
When the arm of the Lord is revealed a darkened world refuses to believe in Him. Few understand that it is through Jesus’ cross that God reveals His mighty power to save. And yet some do believe, and the very first was the Savior’s own mother.
So Mary sings triumphantly of the arm of the Lord revealed even before He was born: “God my Saviour…has shown strength with his arm”. This Good News of God’s power revealed through Jesus’ cross turns the Roman Empire upside down (Acts 17:6). And that same arm of the Lord, so strong in bringing new life, can be released today in any who will believe in Him.
- Why do you think that the “arm of the Lord” was rejected and despised when He was revealed? (See above, Isaiah 53:1,3)
- The Apostle Paul’s life is the story of a man transformed by the power of the cross. Ponder in the words below his thoughts about power.
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18).
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith (Romans 1:16).
- Do you find power in “the arm of the Lord”? If so, how?