Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 32.7-8
7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.

Isaiah 52.10
10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm 
in the sight of all the nations, 
and all the ends of the earth will see 
the salvation of our God.

Reflection: The Arm of Flesh versus the Prince of Peace
By John Tillman

A popular Advent verse is Isaiah’s description of the Arm of the Lord being bared, showing the nations God’s salvation. It is a messianic prophecy fulfilled by Christ. The true “Arm of the Lord” is Jesus.

In his encouragement to the people, Hezekiah implies that the arm of the Lord is with them, but with Assyria is “only the arm of flesh.” (2 Chronicles 32.8)

Assyria’s “arm of flesh” went beyond military might. Assyria wielded the weapon of propaganda. Andrew Bowling writes that Sennacherib had “officers in charge of psychological warfare” who reinterpreted Hezekiah’s actions to claim God was on their side, not his. Hezekiah and the people had recently removed not only altars to false gods but altars to Yahweh that were against the regulations of the law. Assyria’s clever propagandists twisted this fact, claiming that Hezekiah had dishonored God and that God sent them to punish him. (Isaiah 36.7, 10

Did Sennacherib truthfully believe this, or was it just a deceptive tactic? His boasts about the supremacy of his own god and military seem to indicate he did not truly follow Yahweh or care about anything he said.

Many say, “God is on our side.” Both spiritual and political leaders claim to be “God’s man” or “God’s woman.” They say, “We are faithful; they are heretics. We follow Jesus; they follow demons.” Like Sennacherib’s propagandists, these leaders often wield scripture. (2 Kings 18.31-32; 1 Kings 4.25; Micah 4.4)

It shouldn’t shock us for scripture to be misused. Satan tempted both Eve and Jesus by misinterpreting God’s word. Peter admitted that Paul’s complex writings were abused and twisted contrary to what Paul intended. (Genesis 3.1; Matthew 4.6; 2 Peter 3.16)

We may often find ourselves opposed by those who use interpretations of scripture against us. Some may truthfully believe what they say. Some are just engaging in psychological manipulation. How can we tell the difference between Sennacherib’s propaganda and Hezekiah’s true faith? 

I don’t have a perfect answer. But I do have a guideline. Leaders who sound like Sennacherib are like him. Leaders who sound like Jesus are like him.

The arm of flesh uses the language of would-be emperors. It flexes, insults, boasts, and makes arm-twisting threats. The Arm of the Lord uses the language of the Prince of Peace. It works salvation and preaches repentance, truth, grace, mercy, and love.

May we be encouraged by the presence of the Arm of the Lord and serve the Prince of Peace.

Music: Isaiah 52.10, by Rich Mullins

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. — Psalm 118.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 32  (Listen 5:58)
Psalms 144 (Listen 1:56)

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