Feb 2024 student leader devotion
Missions Discipleship

The Arm of the Lord: Isaiah 52:10–12

“The Lord has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. Leave, leave, go out from there! Do not touch anything unclean; go out from her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. For you will not leave in a hurry, and you will not have to take flight; because the Lord is going before you, and the God of Israel is your rear guard.”

—Isaiah 52:10–12 (CSB)

When I was in college, several roommates were serious about working out. They frequented the gym, guzzled protein shakes, and considered a skillet full of ground turkey a meal.

Another roommate and I tried to admonish them with Paul’s words of instruction in 1 Timothy 4:8 that, “training of the body has limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way,” but to no avail. So, on back and bicep day, it was not unusual to find them flexing their arms. College guys flexing might be worthy of rolling your eyes, but when God displays His holy arm as we read in Isaiah 52:10–12, it is worthy of our attention.


When you look at any part of the Bible, it is important to understand the context, but this is especially true in parts we might be less familiar with (like the Old Testament) and in longer books with lots of things going on (like Isaiah). Reading a passage without context is like landing at an airport in a country you’ve never visited while trying to figure things out. You might get where you’re going, but you’re much better served by a map that will show you the big picture. Context helps give us the big picture.

Judgement and hope are the main themes in book of Isaiah. Both are essential to our understanding of God. We have all rebelled against holy God and deserve judgement for our sins. That’s the bad news we need to hear first to fully appreciate the good news. The good news is there is hope for salvation from judgement, and that hope is found only in Jesus Christ.

In Isaiah, God’s people have sinned against God. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reveals he will use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel’s rebellion. This led to the Babylonian captivity, which caused many of God’s people to lose hope in the power of God.

Isaiah prophesied all of this, but he also predicted a coming hope. Yes, there was the promise of return from exile for the people of Israel, but there is an even greater hope. This hope comes in the form of the suffering servant. The servant’s death is a sacrifice for sin. The servant will live again and people have the choice to serve him or reject him. All people, not just Israel, are invited into this new kingdom. This specific passage of Isaiah 52:10–12 is a message of hope. It is a message of God displaying His might to the nations and His faithful care for His people.


Verse 10 begins by stating that God has displayed His holy arm in the sight of all nations, and that the ends of the earth will see the salvation of God. Commentator J. Alec Motyer writes, “The arm stands for the person in action and the power to get things done.” He continues, “The picture is … the Lord ‘rolls up his sleeves’ for his work.”¹

Another commentator, R.N. Whybray, writes, “in other words, He [God] has thrown back the encumbering folds of His garment in order to be able to use His sword. The defeat of Babylon, and the return home of the exiles which is implied in this passage, will amaze the nations of the world.”²

What an amazing picture of the power of God! He is rolling up His sleeves and ready to draw His sword on behalf of the salvation of His people. The nations see that the God of Israel is not just a God who exists, but a God who acts on behalf of His people.

Verse 11 is a call for God’s people to come out, be pure, and touch no unclean thing. This was a call to leave the old life behind.

The imagery in verse 12 is similar to what we see in Numbers chapter 10, with guards marching before and behind the priests carrying holy vessels. In the same way, the Lord guards His priestly people. Motyer says, “God’s presence guides His people into the fullness and brilliance of His everlasting kingdom.”1

It’s no accident that the verses immediately following this passage begin Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant. This is perhaps the clearest picture in the Old Testament of Jesus Christ. It is only by His sacrifice that we can be saved from judgment and enter into the kingdom of God.


God is not a distant deity who simply exists. Throughout Scripture we see Him in action. He acts by judging sin because He is holy. He also acts in mercy because He is love. He offers hope and salvation.

Isaiah 52:10–12 shows how the Lord acts on behalf of His people in order that the nations might see His mighty deeds and experience the salvation. Salvation can only be found by placing faith in the suffering servant, Jesus Christ.

The fact that Jesus became a man, lived a sinless life, died on a cross, and rose from the dead shows God “rolling up his sleeves” and acting mightily on behalf of His people. The judgement of God is satisfied by Jesus’ sacrifice and the hope of salvation is available to all who believe. May we be thankful for the mighty arm of the Lord.

Jon Jeffries serves as design editor for students and denominational liaison at WMU, SBC. He has served in ministry both overseas and in the local church, and appreciates how the WMU serves as a vital link between both.

¹ J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 420–421.

² R. N. Whybray, Isaiah 40-66, The New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eedmans Publishing Company, 1975), 167–168.