Leaning on God’s everlasting arms
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Devotional text: Proverbs 3:5-6
What does it mean to lean on Jesus’ everlasting arms?
For those who feel weak and need rest, for those who are at their wits end in times of trouble, at times when we just don’t know what to do, the idea of God with us, holding us with his everlasting arms, gives us a chance to rest. In effect, leaning on his everlasting arms, allows us to “let go, and let God.”
There’s a wonderful hymn, first published in the late 1800s, that calls to us from the everlasting arms of Jesus. Based on scripture, specifically Deuteronomy 33:27, this hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” was originally inspired by Anthony Johnson Showalter, who wrote both the music and refrain.
A music teacher, author and publisher, Showalter was inspired after quoting the Deuteronomy verse to two of his former students who had lost their wives. Repeating the verse, Showalter immediately felt impressed to compose a hymn, along with its refrain, based upon the scripture.
The scripture from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy reads, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’ ”
Needing stanzas to go along with the hymn, Showalter called upon the Rev. Elisha Albright Hoffman, to see what he could do. Hoffman, born on May 7, 1839, in Orwigsburg, Pa., attended Union Seminary in New Berlin, Pa., and was ordained in 1868.
Coming from a background of having a minister for a father (Francis A. Hoffman spent 60 years as minister of the gospel for the Evangelical Association), gospel music was a mainstay in the Hoffman home. Both mother and father introduced gospel music along with their family worship services in their home.
Through God’s inspiration, Hoffman would come to write more than 2,000 gospel hymns. He wrote his first when he was 18.
This hymn first appeared in The Glad Evangel for Revival, Camp and Evangelistic Meetings, published in 1887.
An easy, as well as upbeat and encouraging hymn, the refrain goes like this: “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.”
The first stanza speaks about fellowship, joy, blessedness and peace, found in “leaning on the everlasting arms.” The second tells us “how sweet (it is) to walk in the pilgrim way” and “how bright the path grows from day to day.” The third and final stanza gives us God’s glorious hope in our lives, as the words encourage us with “what have I to dread, what have I to fear” and “I have blessed peace with my Lord so near.”
In today’s culture, we might ask ourselves what it means “to walk in the pilgrim way.” A pilgrim is defined in various terms: as someone who has no home bound to earthly ways, but is seeking to live in the righteousness of God. Having given one’s life over to God to guide, protect and give us peace, the pilgrim is a follower and seeker of God’s righteousness.
It’s not unusual for someone who truly seeks to follow God to also find God’s inspiration along the way. It may start with a scripture, or just a thought, word or something seen, when all of a sudden inspiration strikes. When that happens, we are usually blessed with great art, prose or poetry, music, words of incredible wisdom that ring true for all humankind.
Studying the Masters, it’s not surprising that many tell us of God’s inspiration for their work.
On a more everyday level, everyone — that is anyone who seeks after God — does find God’s inspiration. Whether it is God showing us the way through troubled times or showering us with blessings and peace, we always benefit from leaning on our God.
This is what God does, as we “walk the pilgrim way,” seeking his will for our lives.
The Bible is filled with scripture that either tells us to, or alludes to the fact, of what happens when we “lean on those everlasting arms.” In Proverbs 3:5-6, we find “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
In the Psalms, King David wrote (Psalm 27:1), “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
If we are seeking after God, it needs to be a commitment, as we see in 1 Chronicles 16:11: “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
God understands that sometimes we are just too weak to carry on; sometimes we become overwhelmed by our life. Yet, God knows, and God helps us. See what it says in Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
In the New Testament, we find Jesus leaving us with peace: (Philippians 4:7) “the peace of God that passes all understanding;” and (John 14:27) the peace that is not of this world, but keeps our hearts from being troubled or afraid.
So, seek the joy and peace of God. For God blesses us, giving us joy, rest and blessedness as we “lean on his everlasting arms.”