Once upon a time Jesus healed a guy with a withered arm. I think I remember studying about that boy and getting the idea it was some kind of farming mishap that rendered his arm useless. The word used in that account means shriveled or twisted up bad.
If you go further back in the Bible you encounter a time when God Himself poses the question, “Does My arm look withered to you?” It was the prophet Isaiah who spoke for God in that instance, I believe. Correct me if I’m wrong; I won’t even google it.
Which brings me to the third (of four) attributions in this “God Is Not…” series of posts. If you’re new to me and are jumping in midstream, I’m taking a few breaths as I prepare to offer a vision statement for this new year. It’s not that I’m doing a drum roll before the ta-da! It’s nothing so dramatic, I assure you. In fact (I’ll go ahead and let you in on it), the ‘word’ I’ve got marinating in my spirit won’t catch you off-guard, yea, it might even be borderline anticlimactic. You might even demand your money back. Wait…
These posts are not a build-up to a crescendo but more of the framing around the message itself. Flying buttresses, if you will. If I’m truly seeing something that presents a new set of challenges for the church in the coming year, then, well, we’re going to need to know some things about God in the midst of the fallout.
- GOD IS NOT NERVOUS
- GOD IS NOT SILENT
GOD IS NOT HANDICAPPED
Well, now I understand something about this. It’s right in my wheelhouse. In nearly nine years of blogging and thirty-three years of speaking out of my life of disability I’ve shared and shared ad nauseum on what my life’s been like as a paralyzed man. There’s not a lot more I can say, but, then again, there’s always a testimony waiting to happen. So…let me testify.
Disability has its privileges. Primo parking spaces, roomier hotel accommodations, cool equipment, wheelchairs that go vroom, and the enviable privilege of being ushered to the front of the line at Disney World. Persons with disability are also fairly patient people; indeed, we have to be. I can also testify that a handicap can strengthen a marriage as you tend to overemphasize communication to compensate for lack in other departments. Have I told you how much I love being married to Sandy?
There’s another strike against persons with disability, an issue I’m loathe to mention but must. By and large we are pretty self-absorbed people. We are often known to make it about us.
I’m going to segue here by making a bold assessment. The church is entirely too self-absorbed. There’s a lot of good – yes – and I love being a part of her. She’s doing enviable work, has many strengths, and is making strong inroads with regard to gospel penetration.
"But I have somewhat against thee," Jesus says.
She’s self-absorbed because she’s handicapped. She needs to make it about her because she’s weak and needy and not fully living out of the joy and strength of her Lord. Mind you, I’m not bashing. I love her. I’m part of her. I’m also weak and needy and self-absorbed, and I think our only hope to overcome is severe testing and refining.
Isaiah was God’s man to a people paralyzed by current events. The Jews living in the 8th century B.C. seemed surprised when they were being raided and carted off by Assyria. God, where are You? Why aren’t You doing something? Have You forgotten about us? They couldn’t believe what hit them – and when it did, they set to blaming God. It was His fault. He let it happen.
Let me tell you about Assyria. It’s capital was Ninevah – yeah, that Ninevah. Never had a world power devised such forms of brutality and torture as the Assyrians. They loved putting out eyes, severing body parts and skinning their prisoners alive. Conquests were staked to the ground and died of starvation and dehydration while exposed to the Middle Eastern sun. Women and children were not immune. Suddenly, Israel finds itself being handed over to these savages and they cried bitterly against their God.
Let me pick up this part of the story straight out of Isaiah’s record:
Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
Did you see that? My predicament. My rights. Me, my, mine. When the focus is leveled at myself and my surroundings I begin to lose hope and look for someone to blame for my situation. Guess who gets the brunt?
God, don’t You love me?
Am I nothing to You?
Don’t You care?
On the heels of this despairing conversation is a promise: YOU WILL MOUNT UP ON EAGLE’S WINGS. But – wait – the promise is for those who “wait” on God. The word in the original gives the picture of twine being twisted into a sturdy rope; the more strings you add the greater the rope’s unbreakable strength. He’s showing us if we wrap our hearts – our hope, our faith – with His purposes, we will soar while the rest are earth-bound. We will have His limitless energy to overcome!
Is He handicapped by the enemy? Are His purposes thwarted?
Is His arm withered?
Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
AND HIS ARM RULES FOR HIM!
He’s not handicapped, we are. We need healing. But, praise God, He’s coming with wings, with legs and with zeal to overcome against our Assyria. Isaiah 40:31 isn’t ‘sweet bye and bye’ stuff. It’s for today, tomorrow and whatever’s coming.
Next Up: “God Is Not…Finished”
Photo Cred: Michelangelo’s anatomical study of the human arm.