Poor Phin. Our youngest son struggled to keep up with his teenage brothers this week on our hiking excursions in Montana. Even our attempts to coax him with Dairy Queen were not enough to get him moving by the end of a few long days. What the hope of a Reese’s blizzard could not do, his father’s shoulders did.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Hebrew word zeroa is used over 90 times. It literally means strength, might, power, or shoulder. Yahweh was said to have rescued His people from enslavement to the strongest nation in the world with an outstretched arm (Exodus 6:6). In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses uses this same word as bookends to the story of God’s people’s past and future. At the beginning of his long speech to recount the faithfulness of God, Moses writes the following regarding the Exodus.
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
After his long story/speech, knowing he won’t be going up to the Promised Land with them, Moses wraps up with similar imagery of God’s powerful arms.
There is none like God, O Jeshrun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms…Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Deuteronomy 33:26-27 & 29.
It is no wonder, then, that God uses the same imagery in His promises of the Messiah through the prophet Isaiah.
Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem. 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 52:9-10.
God’s people were understandably expecting God to flex His strength through a display of power. He had promised to bear His arm, to show His strength clearly in the sight of all nations. One cannot fault them for jumping over Isaiah 53’s suffering servant to hold on to these prophesies of saving power. After all, that was how God had acted in the Exodus.
But the second Exodus to which the original Exodus pointed would prove a very different display of strength.
God bared his strength in the weakness of a child’s soft shoulder bones compressing in delivery into the world He had created. The shoulder of God’s strength likely sat atop his carpenter father’s shoulders. Jesus’ shoulders and arms were laid bare when He was mockingly stripped of His garments by Roman soldiers. Later, his shoulder muscles were torn to the point of exhaustion under the awful load of the beam upon which he would be executed.
Is this how God would flex His strength and bare His arm so that all people might see the salvation of our God?
Moses was more right than he could have possibly imagined when he rhetorically asked Israel if ever there was a god like theirs in Deuteronomy 4.
“For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of.” Deuteronomy 4:32.
Our God bore His strength through the display of weakness that is the Cross so that we might be raised up on His resurrected shoulders unto salvation.
There is nothing more beautiful than the shoulders of this Savior.