We have a tendency to confuse noise for action, loudness for strength. Many people speak with bluster, but they are all bark and no bite.
Not so with God. When he speaks the “earth melts” (Psalm 46:6). God does not try, he does.
So it was when his people were in Egyptian captivity. Jehovah brought them out with a strong hand (Exodus 13:3, 9, 14, 16). God warned Pharaoh and then he acted.
In the great call and response Psalm, the poet praises God for his steadfast love or covenant loyalty.
“To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, for his steadfast love endures forever; and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever; with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:10-12).
It took such a mighty hand to convince the stubborn Pharaoh to release his people. God knew that the deified Egyptian would not go quietly (Exodus 3:19).
This mighty hand redeemed his people from slavery (Deuteronomy 7:8), and delivered them into slavery (Jeremiah 21:5).
In the times of great wickedness, God raised up the terrifying Babylonians. He promised that his people would serve the Chaldeans for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11). There was no use in fighting, for God’s mighty hand was outstretched against his people.
When threatened, the Jews tried to make alliances with neighboring countries, even with that old enemy Egypt. God warned, “Egypt’s help is worthless and empty” (Isaiah 30:7). It was Israel’s iniquity which called down God’s mighty hand, their rebellion invited his outstretched arm. He told them, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you were unwilling” (Isaiah 30:15). Instead they trusted in themselves and the bluster of their allies.
God’s graciousness did not wane, his covenant loyalty waited, and he did not forget his people, “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10). In visiting them he would punish Babylon for all their sins (Jeremiah 25:12), just as he had the Assyrians before them.
Military might, personal prowess, political intrigue mean nothing. Only God’s will and his mighty hand ultimately matter.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).
The might of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome all were but clay in the Potter’s hand. Perhaps a reminder is necessary for us.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6).