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God’s Sustaining Grace

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Having pled with the Lord for His help, a psalmist concludes his remarks by declaring his confidence in the Lord’s upholding the righteous in their struggles:

I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.

Surely the righteous will praise your name
and the upright will live before you. (Ps. 140:12-13)1

As Futato remarks, “The godly, even when abused, can choose to praise the name of God, for not even violence done against them can separate them from the loving presence of the God in whom they live.”2 In accordance with his holy and righteous character, and promise, the Lord stands available to assist the faithful believer:

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures to all generations.

The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made. (Ps. 145:13)

God himself is faithful, especially towards the needy (cf. Ps. 146:7).Accordingly, as we shall see, the psalmist confidently pleads for the Lord’s promise to sustain the believer (cf. Ps. 119:16-17). David can declare with full confidence:

If the LORD delights in a man’s way,
He makes his steps firm.

Though he stumble, he will not fall,
For the LORD upholds him with his hand (Ps. 37:23-24).

As Van Gemeren observes, “The Lord establishes the godly, even in times of adversity…but he will not fall. The Lord keeps him from falling (v24), just as he breaks the power of the wicked.”3

In another psalm David says,

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

My soul clings to you;
Your right hand upholds me (Ps. 63:7-8).

Here David refers to the familiar image of the right hand. Thus Alexander points out, “The right hand is the constant symbol of strength.”4 An interesting contrast may be seen in the ninth Psalm in which David declares that in the face of enemies it is the Lord who upholds David’s right and cause:

My enemies turn back:
They stumble and perish before you.

For you have upheld my right and my cause;
You have sat on your throne, judging righteously (Ps. 9:3-4).

In yet another Davidic psalm, David proclaims that it is the Lord that sustains him:

In my integrity you uphold me
And set me in your presence forever (Ps. 41:12).

It is to the Lord’s credit that David is able to maintain his integrity. Therefore, by God’s help David is confident that he will continue to live for the Lord and enjoy God’s “presence forever”. This should be a model for all believers and, as such, we may always praise the Lord, “from everlasting to everlasting”. (Ps. 41:13)

Indeed, the psalmists often properly praised the Lord for his sustaining grace for even Judah’s kings often demonstrated their loyalty to the Lord. For example, in the face of an invasion by the kings of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, Judah’s fourth king, King Jehoshaphat, proclaimed to his people, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; Have faith in his prophets and you will be successful” (2 Chr. 20:20). And so it happened due to the Lord’s supervision of the details of battle (cf. vv. 22-28). This is in accordance with many scriptures that point to the Lord’s sustaining of his people, not only in the face of their enemies, but in their daily lives.

Thus the Lord sustains the sick, for it is he who “has regard for the weak and delivers him in times of trouble, and who will sustain him ‘on his sick bed’.” (Ps. 41:1,3). Elsewhere David cries to the Lord:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Ps. 51:10-12).

Here David pleads for God’s to so control his life that he may rejoice and seek God’s sustenance. When God is in control of the believer’s life and the Holy Spirit is operative within him, we tend to respond positively to God’s guidance and sustaining grace. Indeed, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Ps.55:22). So it is that the Lord himself promises David, “My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him” (Ps.89:21). Accordingly, the believer may earnestly pray, “Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me” (Ps. 119:175).Surely believers can know and experience the reality of God’s sustaining grace and strength even as David often declares. For example, in Psalm 18 he says, “You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me” (v.35).

The right hand is a familiar Old Testament motif, which is often found in one or two similar uses: 1) prominence (cf. Gal. 2:9) and 2) as we have noted above, power – especially God’s unequalled strength. In New Testament times the apostle John was blessed by the risen Lord Jesus who utilized his right hand:

In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!” (Rev.1:16-17).

Indeed, the Lord himself is still active for the submissive believer. As David out, “The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground” (cf. Ps. 54:4). The right hand itself is a familiar and often used motif. It appears often “to emphasize God’s person and actions. God’s right hand is said to be ‘filled with righteousness (Ps. 48:10) and effective might’” (Ps. 80:15-16; 89:13).5 May each of us, then, remain sensitive to the Lord’s guidance. As Fanny Crosby said,

Thou my everlasting portion, more than friend or life to me;
All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with Thee6.


1 All scripture references are from the NIV.

2 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms”, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, (Carol Stream, Il.: Tyndale House, 2009), VII, 417.

3 Willem A. Van Gemeren, “Psalms”, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids: Zondevan, 1991), V, 302.

4 Joseph A. Alexander, Commentary on Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1991), 280.

5 Dictionary of Biblical Imagery,  eds. Leland Ryken, James. C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, (Downers Grove, Il.: Intervarsity Press, 1998), 727-728.

6 Fanny J. Crosby,  “Close to Thee.”

Related Topics: Grace

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