Is the Lord's Arm too Short?


I don’t like the sound of people crying.

Part of me wants to go over and just put an arm around them and say, ‘shh! It’s going to be ok, please stop.’ So, imagine how Moses felt during the following incident.

About a year after leaving Egypt, and shortly after their stay at Mount Sinai, the people of God started complaining to Moses about the restaurant choice. Only ‘manna’ was on the menu, described as something that tasted like coriander seed.

“If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Num 11: 4 – 6)

The situation was so bad that the author of Numbers describes whole families, sitting at the entrances to their tents wailing. Yes, wailing. Not just shedding a few tears, but actually wailing!

The text tells us that the Lord was very angry, and Moses was troubled. I bet he was! Moses had no idea what to do and so the Lord took over. God told Moses to gather 70 of Israel’s elders to share the burden of leadership, and then to address the whole community, telling them that meat is on its way.

What happens next is interesting. A private conversation between the Lord and Moses takes place but then ends with Moses spluttering, ‘What! How on earth are you going to do that (My paraphrase)’? Or ‘How on earth are you going to find enough meat to feed all these people?’ To which, God gives the well-known response, ‘Is the Lord’s arm too short?’

What a strange phrase!

In a nutshell, God’s arm was a common metaphor in the Scriptures to describe his power to intervene in the affairs of human beings (e.g. Ps 98: 1 – 2). Earlier, before the exodus from Egypt, God had promised he would redeem his people with an ‘outstretched arm’ (Ex 6: 6). Later Moses marvels at the works of God in Deut 4: 34 boasting miracles, signs and wonders, ‘by a mighty hand and outstretched arm.’

A long, outstretched arm is one which can do anything. Moses was already familiar with the phrase, so to ask the question, ‘Is the Lord’s arm too short?’ was a gentle chastisement from the Lord, in effect saying ‘Come on Moses, you have seen my glory and my power – I have a very, very long arm! Has my arm suddenly shrunk? Why have you stopped believing in me?’

Perhaps there are times when we also need that gentle chastisement, that reminder of who is in charge and how powerful He is. Next time we are tempted to sink into doubt, ask yourself this question, ‘Is the Lord’s arm too short?’

The Best is Yet to Come. God bless – Terry

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