Jesus and the Bent Over Woman, by Barbara Schwarz OP
The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds (camak) all those who fall (naphal) and lifts up (zaqaph) all who are bowed (kaphaph) down. Psalm 145:13-14 (NIV)
These are beautiful promises. And there is wonder-full hidden treasure in the Hebrew words. The word camak (סָמַךְ) means to bear up, support, uphold, sustain, refresh, revive. The word zaqaph (זָקַף) means to raise up to life, to comfort. That is wonderful in itself, but the form in which the words are written here makes this verse even more amazing.
According to Barnes¹ camak and zaqaph as they are used here are participles. So, the first promise (camak) reads in the Hebrew “’The Lord sustaining;’ that is, the Lord is a Sustainer or Upholder of all that fall. The allusion is to those who have no power to go of themselves; who would sink under the burdens of life if they were not supported. The idea is, that it is a characteristic of the Lord, that he does sustain such; that all such may confidently look to him to uphold them.”
The second promise (zaqaph) reads, “’he is lifting up;’ that is, he is a lifter up. The reference is to those who are bent and bowed under the duties, the cares, the trials of life; who go bowed down under those burdens. God is able to strengthen them so that they can bear those burdens without being crushed under them.”
So, this verse is essentially declaring: this is what God is always doing; this is who God is. He is the Lord upholding or sustaining, the Upholder, the Sustainer; He is the Lord lifting up, the Lifter. He is the Lord comforting or the Comforter of those who are bowed down. Charles Spurgeon put it this way,
“The form of the verb shows that he is always doing this; he is Jehovah upholding. His choice of the fallen, and the falling, as the subjects of his gracious help is specially to be noted. The fallen of our race, especially fallen women, are shunned by us, and it is peculiar tenderness on the Lord’s part that such he looks upon, even those who are at once the chief of sinners and the least regarded of mankind. The falling ones among us are too apt to be pushed down by the strong: their timidity and dependence make them the victims of the proud and domineering. To them also the Lord gives his upholding help. The Lord loves to reverse things,—he puts down the lofty, and lifts up the lowly. And raiseth up all those that be bowed down … Many are despondent, and cannot lift up their heads in courage, or their hearts with comfort; but these he cheers. Some are bent with their daily load, and these he strengthens. Jesus loosed a daughter of Abraham whom Satan had so bound that she was bowed down, and could by no means lift up herself. In this he proved himself to be the true Son of the Highest. Think of the Infinite bowing to lift up the bowed, and stooping to be leaned upon by those who are ready to fall. The two “alls” should not be overlooked: the Lord has a kindly heart towards the whole company of the afflicted.”²
“The whole company of the afflicted.” Oh, I am definitely in that company too!
The word translated “those who fall” in this verse is naphal (נָפַל) and seems to cover every kind of “falling” there is: cast down, fail, fall away, fall down, be lost, overthrown, overwhelmed, thrown down, waste away, die, perish, rot. The word translated “bowed down” is kaphaph (כָּפַף) which means to be bowed down, bent or curved, as by circumstances or disease, to be discouraged. It also means to bow oneself down, as to God. These are the “all” that God cares for – the “failures,” the lost, the prodigals, the fallen, the overwhelmed, the dying, the discouraged and sick. The crippled woman who had been bent over double, bowed down, for eighteen years whom Jesus healed (Luke 13:10-16) was one of the “all,” one of the “whole company of the afflicted.” I’m sure she was discouraged after all that time, overwhelmed, cast down. But praise God! He does not break the bruised reed, but strengthens it and supports it on His own precious self; He does not snuff out the smoldering wick, but gently blows on it to restore the flame (Isaiah 42:3).
With great compassion, Jesus was continually lifting people up during his earthly ministry. The woman taken in adultery (John 8:3 – 11), the lame, blind, crippled, mute (Matthew 15:30), the widow’s dead son (Luke 7:12 – 15), Lazarus (John 11:28 – 44). And he still is lifting us. He can, and has, and will raise you up.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 NIV)
If you are one of the “afflicted ones” or are praying for someone who is, remember and cling to these promises! God IS the Upholder, the Sustainer, the Lifter, the Raiser to Life – and so much more! He is doing it all the time, he can’t help himself – it’s who He Is. Reach out to him, he will not fail you.
But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. (Mark 9:27 NIV)
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” (even so, surely, truth, verily, yea, yes) in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” (firm, faithful, verily, surely, truly, of a truth, so be it, so it is!) is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)
Yes!! And Amen!!
Painting: Jesus and the Bent Over Woman, by Barbara Schwarz OP http://artafire.homestead.com/
¹ Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments, by Albert Barnes
² The Treasury of David, by Charles Spurgeon full-text online