Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
Continuing from our previous discussion concerning YHWH and His Bride, this article begins the evaluation of the evidences for the pre-incarnate Son being the Divine Bridegroom in the Old Testament – the very one before whom the Sinai Covenant was instituted. While the Old Testament prophets never identified the Messiah by the name Jesus – which shouldn’t be surprising since that was the name acquired at His incarnation – there are clear references to His nature, mission and works that puts to rest all the doubt that the Old Testament prophets knew more than what skeptics (including the Unitarians) give them credit for.
The Old Testament is filled with appellations and titles that corresponds to the works and deeds of the Messiah, which if casted in the revealing light of the other scriptures without importing unnecessary presumptions, no doubt will point us to the identity of the Jesus Christ in the NT. In other words, it is our conviction that The Son before His incarnation had been active throughout the history and texts of the Old Testament. Most especially, the Church for almost twenty centuries had identified the pre-incarnate Son as the Divine Malak YHWH (the angel of the LORD) whom the inspired authors of the Old Testament repeatedly identified as YHWH though distinct from another figure known as YHWH – which points to the brute fact that the OT authors (who doesn’t have the linguistic tools to articulate their conviction within the context of a philosophical nomenclature) have always been proto-Trinitarians.
In this article, we shall examine another of the appellations for the pre-incarnate Son in the OT, namely, the arm of the LORD (zeroa YHWH). However, before moving on to the more advanced aspect of the encounter, there ought to be points that had to be clarified.
First Things First
While it is true that the phrase “Arm of the LORD” in the OT is a figure of speech for the mighty power of YHWH, there are instances where this phrase refers to a personified figure. In every instance that it seemingly refers to a personified figure, it either tells us about the past, present or future deeds of the One who later came to be revealed as the Messiah.
Now, lest the armies of the hyper-literalists come for me with their weapons, it is important for me to remind them that it is my conviction and contention that the phrase “Arm of the LORD” is an appellation for Jesus Christ – no one is saying that Jesus looks like an a human arm considering the fact that the Biblical God is a Spiritual Being and not a physical entity with physical features and forms. In other words, it is my conviction and contention that what an arm is to a man is what The Son is to The Godhead. While The Son (as the Word) reveals Godhead to creation, The Son, as the arm of YHWH, executes and performs divine actions and deeds on behalf of the Godhead.
For the simple-minded Unitarian (and his strange bedfellows) who still want to insist that God’s arm must look like his/her own arm, below is a Biblical passage as a word of thought for him/her:
HAVE YOU AN ARM LIKE GOD, and can you thunder with a voice like his?
There is a semblance between the eschatological Messiah and the Arm of the LORD (Zeroa YHWH) – a semblance which becomes more pronounced in the prophetic writings of Isaiah. In fact, if the prophetic book in question is read with an open mind, one would be compelled to recognize the fact that the title “Arm of the LORD” has become Isaiah’s expression for the Messiah.
“Surely the ARM OF THE LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear”
The Old Testament Evangelist went on to lament about the utter depravity of the human nature. Isaiah argued that the iniquities of man had separated man from God and made God’s face hidden from us. Justice had been far from us, and righteousness had failed to reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows [vs. 9). The offences of mankind are numerous in God’s sight and our sins testify against us (vs. 12). God was displeased that there was no justice (vs. 15). Then the passage went on to say:
“He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;”
This should remind the readers of a similar passage in the Book of Revelations where it was said that:
“But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it”
Not even one among the vast stars (angels) and the creatures on earth could intervene and open the scroll. However, one of the elders at the scene comforted John, saying,
“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals”
Revelation 5:5 [NIV]
Then Apostle John went on to describe a lamb, standing in the centre of the throne and encircled by the four living creatures and elders (v.6). What’s more? This opening of the scroll parallels a passage in book of Ezekiel:
“Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me… And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel”
Ezekiel 2:9-10a; 3:1
Just as Yahweh in the Old Testament unrolled the scroll and gave it to Ezekiel to eat, Jesus in the New Testament unrolled the scroll and gave it to John for him to eat (10:9-10). The renowned NT scholar concurs:
“More significantly, throughout chapters 4, 5 and 10, John is closely following the inaugural vision of the book of Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1-3:11). Like Ezekiel, he sees a vision of the divine throne… which prepares for the communication of a prophetic message to the prophet… In Ezekiel’s case, God himself opens the scroll and gives it to the prophet with the command to eat it… In Revelation… where an angel gives the open scroll to John and he eats it, finding it sweet as honey in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach. The difference between Ezekiel and Revelation lies in the opening of the scroll. In Revelation, the scroll must be opened by the Lamb before it can be given to John to eat. So the scroll is taken from the hand of God by the Lamb, who opens it… It is then taken from heaven to earth by an angel (10:1-2), who gives it to John to eat (10:8-10)” 
While the Book of Revelation identified the opener of the scroll as the Lamb (i.e. the Redeemer), prophet Isaiah described the figure as the Arm of the LORD:
“So His own arm worked salvation for him and his own righteousness sustained him” Isaiah 59:16b
Now the question is: Who/What is this Arm of the LORD? No need to strain further, Isaiah himself said:
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no good looks or majesty. When we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with disease. He was despised as one from whom men hide their face; and we didn’t respect him. Surely he has borne our sickness, and carried our suffering; yet we considered him plagued, struck by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he didn’t open his mouth. As a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he didn’t open his mouth.
Interestingly, not only did Isaiah use personal pronouns for the Arm of the Lord, he also went on to give an amazing description that matched the life of Jesus. Isaiah 53 captured the one of the most important events in human history in few words. If I didn’t know better, I would have insisted that the writer of this passage is a first century eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus.
Drawing from the scene in Revelations, after the Lamb had opened the scroll, it ought to be pointed out that every created thing burst into a new song:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Amazingly, this had already been prophesied in the previous scriptures:
“Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! HIS RIGHT HAND AND HIS HOLY ARM have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD! Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”
In fact, there is a particular passage in Isaiah where the arm of LORD is addressed as a person:
Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon? Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over? And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
In other words, the Arm of the LORD was the One who cut Rahab into pieces – a point which was elucidated further in this passage:
O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with Your Mighty Arm.
Rahab is explicitly identified as Egypt here:
Egypt’s help is worthless and empty; therefore I have called her “Rahab who sits still.”
Going back to Isaiah 51:9-10 where we were told that it was the Arm of the LORD (Zeroa YHWH) who dried up the sea, making the redeemed people of the LORD cross over – a vivid allusion to God’s redemption of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
“Therefore, say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I WILL REDEEM YOU WITH AN OUTSTRETCHED ARM and with great judgments.”
In fact, there is a passage in Isaiah where references are made to all the three divine persons of the Trinity:
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name,
If a careful attention is paid here, one will be led to realize that there is a synonymous parallelism here. Parallelism is a technical term for the form of Hebrew poetry that repeats a thought in slightly different ways. In this case, “the angel of His presence” is synonymous with “His glorious arm”. This particular angel (Malak YHWH) is none other than the Divine Malak YHWH who accompanied the Israelites and led them into the Promised Land. This particular point will be later developed in the sequel to this article – Lord willing.
In fact, we’re told that the Arm of the LORD (Zeroa YHWH) is coming back – this advent is none other than the Parousia of Christ (i.e. His Second Coming!):
“Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” 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 arm; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
“Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; SO MY OWN ARM BROUGHT ME SALVATION, and my wrath upheld me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
Interestingly, here is what was written about the Arm of the LORD (Zeroa YHWH):
“Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arm will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait.
YHWH said that He created all things by His arm:
“Indeed my hand has laid the foundation of the earth and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand up together”
“Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by your power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You”
Just as YHWH created all things by His arm in the OT, the NT repeatedly teaches us that it is through the Son that all created things came into existence (John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:10-12).
In fact, Apostle John, while alluding to Isaiah said:
“Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.”
“It may not be unambiguously clear whether it is God or Jesus whom the author intends as the “Lord” (Kyrie) ad dressed in the quotation of Isaiah 53:1 in John 12:38, but Jesus is surely the “arm of the Lord” of the Isaiah passage who is now revealed, though not properly recognized. Thus 12:41 seems to claim baldly that Jesus was the glorious figure seen in the prophetic vision described in Isaiah 6:1-5! GJohn is not alone in this stunning understanding of Isaiah’s vision, but it is the earliest explicit reference to the idea that Isaiah saw the glorious/glorified Jesus.” 
Now, with the foregoing in perspective, let’s summarize the Biblical data about the Arm of the LORD (Zeroa YHWH):
- Just as God created all things by His Arm (Isaiah 48:13; Jeremiah 32:17), so also was all things created by The Son (John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:10-12)
- Just as the Arm of the LORD intervened concerning the depravity of humanity when there was no one to help (Isaiah 59:16), so also did The Son (the Lamb) intervened when there was no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth to help (Revelation 5:1-6ff)
- Just as creation burst into a new song when the Arm of the LORD wrought salvation (Psalm 98) – a future prophecy that later came to be fulfilled in Christ – so also did all of creation burst into a new song when the Son (Lamb) ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,and has made them a kingdom and priests to our God, who shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:8-14)
- Just as the Arm of the LORD rules for Him (Isaiah 40:10), so also did The Son rules for The Father
- Just as the Arm of the LORD will judge peoples and nations (Isaiah 51:5), so also will The Son judge all souls
- Just as all nations saw the salvation of the LORD when He bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations (Isaiah 52:10), so also did all nations from the east to the west saw the salvation of our God when the Redeemer was revealed.
- The Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:13 – Isaiah 53:12 was identified as the Arm of the LORD – a passage which was later quoted by John when he was commenting on the unbelief of the Jews.
- The most important aspect which is relevant for the purpose of this article is that the Glorious Arm of the LORD along with the Holy Spirit led out the Israelites out of Egypt (Isaiah 63:12) – the very Arm of the LORD who can be identified as the “Angel of the LORD’s Presence”. This particular angel is none other than the Malak YHWH who was promised in Exodus 23 – the very angel who later appeared to the Israelites as Bokim recounting how He led the Israelites out of Egypt and entered into a covenant with them – the covenant which is none other than the Sinai Wedding Banquet.
With the foregoing in perspective, we have sufficient Biblical data to identify The Son as the Arm of the LORD. However, now that the Arm of the LORD can be identified as the angel of the LORD’s presence, then we can continue with the evaluation of the evidences for the activity of The pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament. This time around, as will be presented in the sequel to this installment in the series, we shall examine the apparitions of the pre-incarnate Christ as the Malak YHWH (the Divine Angel of YHWH). Till then, stay tuned…
- Richard Bauckham, New Testament Theology: The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge University Press, UK. 1993) pg. 81
- Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K. 2003) pg. 375