Arm of the Lord, John 12:37-41

“But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him…” John 12:37.

H. A. Ironside wrote years ago that the gospel can either soften the heart until one accepts it, or it can harden the heart until it is finally rejected altogether.

Ironside continued on to say; as the sun melts wax it also hardens clay. Herein is the key to the meaning of the verse above.

Even though He had done so many attesting miracles the people still did not receive Him as Messiah. Were these signs not enough?

The chief priests and Pharisees said this about Jesus.

“What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” John 11:47b.

So it was not for lack of evidence that they were rejecting Him. We know that the civil and religious leaders were rejecting Christ out of jealousy and hatred, but why the people?

This is partially due to the laziness of people who did not wish to waste time studying Scripture when they had scholars who could tell them what to do and believe.

Others though had seen the miracles and heard the preaching of Christ, even been fed by Him, yet many would not believe.

Folks today think that signs and wonders would make anyone who saw them accept Christ as savior, yet Christ Himself has proven that a man will not believe if he does not wish to.

In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man, being in hell, asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them, Abraham replied.

“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” Luke 16:31.

In truth, the hardened heart will not even listen to the voice of an angel; three angels in fact, as the following illustrates.

“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth – to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people – saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’ And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’ Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’” Revelation 14:6-11.

The sight and sound of three angels flying through heaven uttering dire warnings in the middle of the tribulation should move everyone to repent.

Yet so many will ignore these warnings and accept the mark of the beast that in the fight against Christ at the battle of Armageddon, their blood will flow in a stream four and a half feet deep and two hundred miles long!

For more on the three angels, see Revelation 14:6-13, published here on 1-19-17.

“…that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’” John 12:38.

This prophecy written by Isaiah around 740-680 B.C. and fulfilled by Jesus is also a picture of the populace of Judah at that time. Isaiah continually warned the Jews of their need to stop their idolatrous ways and to rely on the Lord instead of making foreign alliances for their own safety; all of which was ignored.

Even when, as he had prophesied, the northern kingdom was carried away by the dreaded Assyrians in 721 B.C. Judah continued in idolatry until its evil sinful practices actually exceeded the sins of the people that Israel took the land from when they entered it in 1400 B.C.

Having been warned continually by Isaiah, and many others, their hearts became hardened. If you want to see how this hardening happens, examine the recent history of this country.

It is no longer God, but capitalism that made this country great; God has been expunged from schools, social functions, cemeteries, the media, politics, government, the military, and the workplace.

Jesus is mocked or degraded in schools and colleges, on television, in movies, books, the internet, even in comic books, perhaps especially in comic books which many young people read.

Many people today have become obstinate, self-righteous, and indoctrinated by the foregoing examples. As a result, if they are told something about God that does not fit their worldly concept, they may reject you and accuse you of hate speech.

Soon it will be illegal to spread these intolerant Christian views on others, and the intolerant ones will be arrested for spreading hate.

Rome crumbled under her own corruption and became so weakened that foreign invaders (Visigoths, a Germanic tribe) were reluctantly allowed to dwell within her borders and soon they came in and sacked the city itself in August 410 A.D. Does this sound familiar?

No wonder the pitiful cry goes out, “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Isaiah wrote these things down for all generations; his people did not value his words or care that he spoke for God; they did not believe his report; even after God’s arm had been revealed.

His arm is His strength, His power, which had been shown throughout Israel’s history, as many of them well knew.

Still, this prophecy is about Jesus; God incarnate, folks could see the arm of the Lord in a way never before possible.

We do not see Thor or Zeus as you might expect of a god, there was no angry sputtering or crash of thunder; rather, it says of Jesus.

“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Isaiah 53:1-3.

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law.” Isaiah 42:1-4.

Read Matthew 12:14-21 to see where this prophecy is quoted; note the last couple of phrases of Isaiah 42:4 above are omitted in the quote in Matthew because they are yet to be fulfilled.

Jesus is, holy, harmless, and undefiled. He was when He walked this earth, and He is the same now in heaven where He is our High Priest.

“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens…” Hebrews 7:25-26.

This, by the way is what Jesus asks of us.

“Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” Philippians 2:14-15.

The power of God in Christ is illustrated in the following passage, also from Isaiah.

“Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it: ‘I the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.’” Isaiah 42:5-9.

The command to Christians to be blameless and harmless (innocent) in the world given in Philippians 2:14-15 above has an interesting comment in the end; “…in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world”. Christians shine as lights.

If mere Christians who are a pitiful representation of Christ in the world can be lights to others, how brilliant a light Christ must have been. God’s arm has been shown in power to those present in Christ’s days on earth.

“Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and understand with their heart, lest they should turn, so that I should heal them.’” John 12:39-40.

“Therefore they could not believe,” why, because they had already hardened their heart against Jesus and determined not to accept Him as their Messiah.

Then why did God blind their eyes and harden their hearts? He did so because they had already rejected Christ.

“Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify you King?’ the chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’” John 19:15b.

The blinding and hardening came about because the Jews had already said no, God kept it that way so they would not relent from killing the Lord.

They had already rejected Him in spite of all His marvelous signs; they even blasphemed the Holy Spirit by saying that Christ had a demon. With the crucifixion of Jesus the depths of man’s evil heart was shown.

The people had already passed the tipping point, the point of no return. You can only mock, degrade, and reject God so long, then the axe falls, remember that as you note the fate of the scoffers around you.

The grace of God is amazing though when you read the last line, “Lest they should turn, so that I should heal them.” They hardened their hearts, so God gave them up to their evil ways; but if they were to turn, God would heal them!

If folks insist on following their own lusts, we are told that God will give them up; that is He lets them go their way. God only does so much arm twisting but He will not force His will on anyone.

“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting…” Romans 1:24-28.

This final step, giving over to a debased mind, means a non-functioning mind, a mind that does not work. Even after all of this, if they would turn, God would heal them, though by this time their minds are so depraved and addled that it is unlikely.

If He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, does that mean that all Jews are going to hell? No, this hardening was to keep them from relenting in their decision to crucify Jesus.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know – Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” Acts 2:22-24 and 37.

Three thousand Israelites became Christians after Peter’s sermon; possibly some of them had cried out for the crucifixion of Jesus just a short time earlier.

However, many Jews hearts are still hard because they reject Jesus as Messiah to this day, yet there are still those who throughout the last two thousand years have accepted Christ as their savior.

“For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’” “For ‘whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Romans 10:11 and 13.

For more on the hardening of Israel, see Romans chapters 10-11.

“These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” John 12:41.

The glory this verse speaks of is as follows.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.’ Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” Isaiah 6:1-8.

Arm of the Lord, John 12:37-41 taken from posted on 2-16-13 updated on 12-28-17.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

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