“Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house (1 Samuel 2:31a).”
Kirill Tereshin is a 21-year-old bodybuilder and former Russian soldier seeking to grow his current 23-inch biceps to an enormous 27 inches. (1) Tirsehin has gained worldwide fame for his “guns” on Instagram and has achieved his great arm dimensions from a home-made muscle-building formula based on Synthol, which is made from olive oil, lidocaine and benzyl alcohol. His stated motive for growing massive biceps is to accrue one million followers.
The young man has already been cautioned that he risks paralysis but now a doctor is warning that he risks amputation of his arms. Evgeny Lilin counsels, “Not immediately but he very likely faces amputation in the future.” Further he says that the Synthol he has already injected into his muscles will remain “for the next five to seven years, even if he stops adding more now.” Undeterred, Tereshin plans to continue his path to greater arms, even though it seems quite possible that his arms race could lead to his ruin and ultimately the loss of his prized limbs.
Spiritually, we have all shared similar experiences in our lives, placing undue trust in our own strength to the point that our situation grows more desperate. As Christians we are instructed not to rely on our resources but to lean on God’s all-powerful arm (Psalm 20:7,2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Jonathan was a prince of Israel, who along with only his armorbearer came upon a garrison manned by their enemies the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:6-14). The odds of overtaking their position was 10-1 as there were 20 Philistines and only these two Israelites. But Jonathan reasoned, “It may be that the LORD will work for us. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few (v.6).” His father on the other hand repeatedly failed to trust in God and instead of demonstrating his son’s courage, King Saul feared the people to the extent he obeyed their wishes rather than obey God’s (1 Samuel 15:24). Trusting in his own arms made him a coward and failure.
David is the poster boy of relying completely on the arm of God even to the point of challenging the giant Philistine warrior Goliath (1 Samuel 17:21-51) because he dared to insult the army of the living God. David proclaimed before slaying the giant, “The LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands (v.47).” But during his reign David was moved to take a census “so that I may know how many there are (1 Chronicles 21:1-2).” This stated motive hints that he was taking pride in the size of his military manpower more than in God’s power and God punished him for it (v.7).(2)
Notice that Hannah was vexed by her inability to conceive and was tormented by her rival (1 Samuel 1:5-6). But she took her plight and yearnings for a child to God and trusted in Him (vv.10-18) and she bore a son (v.27). Abram and Sarai were promised a son in their old age but they determined that they needed to resolve this in their own strength and wisdom rather than waiting for God. Sarai proposed that her maid, Hagar, conceive a child for them (Genesis 16:1-2). But this child, Ishmael, was not the child of God’s promise (Genesis 17:18-19), and their imprudent plan caused them and others great trouble later (Genesis 21:9-11, 16:12).
Those who concoct their own home-made recipe for strength will meet with disaster and become powerless. But those who lean upon the everlasting arms will have the victory (Deuteronomy 33:27). In the end none of us have the power to save ourselves and must trust in God’s arm that is alone powerful to save us from our sins and the power of death (Isaiah 59:1).
“‘With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah (2 Chronicles 32:8).”
- Wilbur Fields, Old Testament History, College Press Publishing, 1996, Joplin, Missouri, pp.454-455