Following a series of personal calamities, Handel was encouraged, at the very point of giving up, by reading Charles Jennen’s libretto, which included scripture. Inspired by prophecy as well as by Christ’s life, Handel was moved to begin again. When he wrote “Messiah” no one could foresee its popularity over centuries of time.
When first played it blessed King George 2 so greatly that he stood during the Hallelujah chorus, recognizing Christ as King of Kings, a tradition followed to this day. This Messiah gathered the lambs in His arms, a picture of God’s caring and protection. Therefore we see this scripture engaging men of fame and power – a noted musician as well as the king. Most men might not acknowledge their need of a shepherd’s care, but these men acknowledged their personal need of God to guide them, to comfort them, as though they were His lambs.
Handel must have been reading: “He gathers His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart” (Isaiah 40:11). What a tender picture of God sustaining, providing for, and protecting His sheep. Those who are most vulnerable, the marginalized, the very young and very old are held close to His heart! We cannot forget that Jesus, Himself, tenderly took little children in His arms to bless them (Mark 10:16). During his own suffering was this Handel’s experience of God?
The Bible tells us many things about God’s arms. His power is demonstrated by the strength of His arms and hands (Deuteronomy 3:24), a strength visible among the nations. His arms are holy, the source of salvation (Isaiah 52:10). The Psalmist concurs when he writes “Sing to the Lord….for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him!” (Psalm 98:1).
God’s arms are everlasting. How many people have found comfort in verses written so long ago by Moses? “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). Through generations of human history God remains the same, tender and loving to all who will receive Him.
More than once the question is asked in scripture whether or not the Lord’s arm is too short to save His people? (Numbers 11:23, Isaiah 50:2). Notice it is God who is proactive, stretching out His arm to save the Israelites on different occasions, as no other god had done before (Deuteronomy 4:34).
Perhaps we might emulate God’s example as we meet people today. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit we are equipped to bear His love towards those who are hurting, and those who struggle to understand God. Will His gentle Spirit working in and through us give occasion for us to proclaim the strong and yet tender arm of God to those in need?
Have you ever had occasion to depend upon an arm to help you get up or to walk? How often when we are grieving does a gentle arm around the shoulders bring us comfort. Arms were also designed by God as messengers of love. Imagine as you draw close to someone in trouble how valuable your arm is to them. Let your arms be God’s arms to others in need.
by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)