Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
Behold is such a lovely word. Every time I hear it I think of something spectacular, noble, beyond myself. It is a term meant to draw attention to a display of something out of the norm. It is a revealing of something intended to conjure awe in those witnessing the event. In the context of this psalm we have already experienced challenge and despondency, problems and criticisms, but now the picture turns, BEHOLD! Something is different! Something wholly-other is in the midst of the poet. God himself, the one who has no counsel, who holds the oceans in his hands, he is the one who helps David, he draws near to us. “Behold, God is my helper!” Not only is David in awe of God, his helper, but he is proclaiming to all who read these words, behold the riches of glory! So, in what ways does God display his glorious help to us? By upholding our life and demonstrating he is the anchor of our hope; God makes us alive together with his Christ.
David uses the term Lord. We typically see the term LORD (in all uppercase) as a substitution of the name Yahweh. However, in this instance it is lowercase. David is calling God his master who has charge over him. The king has a King (Ps 110:1). It is David’s master who upholds his life…he makes David to live and move and have his being! What more help could David find, what more trust could he have in that his very Creator serves the role of his master? Behold David’s astonishment, the very God who made me is not going to remove himself from interaction or communion with his people. If God made the universe for the purpose of his children flourishing, then he will certainly uphold the lives of those children.
David asserts God is his helper. Some of us may have a subconscious position in mind, even when we don’t realize it; our position may hold God as our helper in some subordinate sense. God is my helper when my finances are rough. God is my helper because I’m just so special…how could he not help someone like me? I’m not as bad as those other people who seem worse off, so God must be my helper. Plainly this is not the way David is referring to helper! The “behold” marks the extraordinary nature of God being David’s helper. It is not for any humanistic reason that God should help David. David is unworthy of God’s help, but grace shines in this place. God is my helper and it is spectacular and praiseworthy that God should will to help a simple man as I. God helps out of love and he helps because that is how he chooses to show his glory (Ps 130:3-4). God helps because it is out of necessity for our survival. Do you behold God as your helper? If it were out of David’s worthiness, merit, or success that he somehow qualified for help, then the poet would have no need to use the term behold. But grace abounds to such sinners, we too can boast of God’s glory helping us no matter our place in the dark caves of this corrupt world.
It is the dark cave wherein we find ourselves next; a place where our life must be upheld. Like Peter thrashing in the water before the one who walks over such turbulent waves, David proves his life and reign is a demonstration of God’s saving work. While I should be lying in the dust, behold! my master upholds my life. William Plumer encourages, “He who has ordained the end has also appointed the means.”He presses, “Hearty prayer is a great refreshment.” Even though David was promised by God to have access and lengthy reign over all of Israel he still prayed with petition to God while stuck in the caves of his enemies. John Calvin asks of the person praying, while David is in the “hazard of his life, how then could he speak of God as being near to him? He was pressed down to the very mouth of the grave; and how could he recognize the gracious presence of God…how is it possible he can triumph in the certain hope that divine help will presently be extended?”Faith is hope against hope! Christ rose. Christ has called me before the foundations of the world. Therefore, I can trust him as my surefoundation, my eternal upholder! I know God’s promises for me and that he has declared me his by upholding my life, therefore, I will behold his work in me even in the depths of this cave.
- Behold, God! – I stand in awe of You though You are too glorious for my sinful eyes and depraved heart! Yet I am blessed to know the terror of Your splendor (Ps 96:9).
- God is my helper; – I praise You that out of Your established reign, Your holy throne, You have come to my rescue. You do not faint, but You act in eternity to bring me out of the reign of sin and death. You alone are my help, which I sing praise, because You alone are able.
- The Lord is the upholder of my life. – Christ Jesus You have called me into Yourself. In baptism I am dead to guilt and made alive with You. I meditate on just what that means: to be alive with You. Not simply next to You, but actually within You by Your resurrection. I am in communion with the Triune God, the one to whom I shout “Behold!”
Paul uses a word that greatly helps our understanding of this verse; it is actually a combination of two words. One word is used quite frequently in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), this is the word poieo, meaning ‘to make’ or ‘to establish’. The other word is zoon, which means ‘living creature’. Paul connects these words to say God “makes living.” He goes so far as to add another term into the word, literally “make alive together with” Christ. Put into the context of our look at Psalm 54:4, God’s Word expresses… Behold our God! He upholds my life by making me alive through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I rise with Jesus! This is the way God expresses his glorious riches, this is how he establishes his reign of grace. The Greek word is found in Genesis 1:1 and Isaiah 43 of the Septuagint, it is found in Romans 4:7 and 8:11, it is found combined with Christ in Colossians 2:13 (“God made alive together with him” because otherwise our sins would not be forgiven), and finally it is read in Revelation 21:5 as Jesus declares “Behold! I make all things new.” Behold our God! He makes life out of those who are buried with him in the depths of the cave…in the death of baptism and into the resurrection of his life. The Lord is our upholder because all life-giving-power is a surety in the eternal Christ – out of non-existence he makes life. Trust he willingly gives life.
Let us praise God in prayer this week. Seek out the treasure of beholding God. Name to your heart the various reasons you might say “behold!” in reference to God. Contemplate the various ways he has helped, is helping, and will help you. Lastly, praise your Lord for upholding you by grace, that you do not work for grace, but in death he has chosen to make you alive in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Truly He is our Yes and Amen.
Pastor Chris Osterbrock
All Scripture quotations taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.
William S. Plumer, Studies in the Book of Psalms: Being a Critical and Expository Commentary, with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks on the Entire Psalter(Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Co., 1872), 577.