SUSTAIN/UPHOLD: samak. Verb. (Strong’s 5564).
Sounds like: saw-mawk.
Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul. [Hinneh Elohim otzer; Adonai b-som’keh naph’shi].
The word Sustain means to keep alive, but it’s more than that; it’s also giving physical and emotional support. It’s sustaining something so it will not just live, it will thrive. For example, a good Mom sustains her children and helps them flourish, emotionally and physically, so they can keep moving forward in their lives.
Today is my Mom’s birthday (Happy Birthday Mom!!!) and she has certainly done this for me. She has raised me, fed me, prayed for me, clothed me, taught me, encouraged me, celebrated with me, nursed me, guided me… that’s a lot of focus on me, and yet she has done all these things without asking for anything in return. That is Godly living!
In every way, YHWH is our Great Sustainer from the moment we were born:
By You I have been sustained [nis’mak’ti] from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually of You. I have become a marvel to many, for You are my strong refuge.
Being sustained by YHWH and flourishing under His support is testimony of His great love for those who love Him in return (I have become a marvel to many). We stand out.
That doesn’t mean followers of YHWH live an easy life… perhaps it’s our resolve in times of adversity that makes us stand out. We have faith in a God who loves us. We are not alone. We can cry out and He will hear us:
But You, O YHWH, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to YHWH with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for YHWH sustains me [ki YHWH yis’m’keni].
For some, laying down meant giving up… but in this case the sleeper awoke because God sustained him, lifted him up and kept him going.
Sustained for the Kingdom
But what are we being sustained for? What is our purpose?
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations. YHWH sustains [somek YHWH] all who fall and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
All us us have fallen at numerous points in our lives… and many of us have bowed in humility at the recognition of God’s awesomeness. I love that YHWH lifts us up and sustains us when we are at the lowest points. We may fall down often, but we won’t stay down becauseIt God needs us on our feet. He has given us a purpose and a place; we have been made for the Kingdom. YHWH sustains us, opens His hands to every living thing to give us what we really want: a place to belong. Yeshua (Jesus) said:
Luke 12:29-32 (see also Matthew 6:25-34)
“And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His Kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the Kingdom.”
We were made for the Kingdom… a place of joy, righteousness and peace:
…for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Yeshua upheld our life, not just by physical nourishment, but by spiritual nourishment. By His death we have been sustained so that we would be able to live in the everlasting Kingdom of God!
The Law Upheld
But before the Kingdom could be handed to the people, God supplied laws which would guide us in the right direction. Although God has upheld His people, He has also upheld His laws:
The works of His [God’s] hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure. They are upheld [s’mukim] forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; holy and awesome is His name.
Psalm 119:116-117 (Samekh)
Sustain me [sam’keni] according to Your Word, that I may live; and do not let me be ashamed of my hope. Uphold me that I may be safe, that I may have regard for Your statutes continually.
Lay His Hand
By definition, the word sustain means to keep alive or to uphold something. That’s very interesting considering that in the Torah this word is primarily (over 20 times) used in sacrificial ceremonies.
Sometimes laying/supporting a hand on the head of a human was part of ritual, such as the cleansing of the Levites found in Numbers 8, and the succession of Joshua to lead the people. It was kind of like the death of an old way, and the rising of the new:
Numbers 27:18-23 (See also Deuteronomy 34:9)
So YHWH said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay [w-samak’ta] your hand on him ; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. You shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him. Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before YHWH. At his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in, both he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation.” Moses did just as YHWH commanded him; and he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. Then he laid [w-yis’mok] his hands on him and commissioned him, just as YHWH had spoken through Moses.
This outward act of laying hands symbolically showed the transference of power. Joshua was no longer the supporting commander, he was now the chief commander. It was important for the community to see this change of leadership so that they could accept, and obey, Joshua’s word as leader of the community. In a way, this was an early form of anointing. It was anointing a leader with touch.
But much more often, the laying of hands was connected to ritual sacrifice. The Levite priests were to lay their hand on the sacrificial animal before it was killed. The Hebrew word that has been translated as “lay” is actually samak… today’s word meaning to sustain, to support.
This was the general rule for most sacrifices: the priests would lay or support their hands on the head of the animal before it was slaughtered for sacrifice: Leviticus 1 (Burnt offerings), Leviticus 3 (Peace offerings), Leviticus 4 and 2 Chronicles 29:23-24 (Sin offerings), Leviticus 16 (Law of Atonement).
‘If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before YHWH. He shall lay his hand [w-samak yadow] on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.’
Laying hands emits a powerful visual image. The idea was upholding the head, or supporting it. In a way it was sustaining its life to the very end. It was human respect and connection towards the animal. This blameless creature was taking the fall for humans and it deserved kindness and human touch in its final moments.
Sustained with a Sacrifice.
In this early culture, these animals fed the people and sustained the people… and died for their sins. This was all one big highlighter, illuminating the obvious… that we killed the One who sustained us, to atone for our sins.
The next day he [John the Baptizer] saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
John recognized Yeshua as the Messiah… the Anointed One who would be the sacrificial Passover lamb. His death opened up the possibility for us to enter the Kingdom and face our Creator. At His trial He talked about His purpose, which included being handed over:
Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”
Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”
Yeshua was the ultimate Righteous and Blameless One. He was anointed by God, and we laid our hands on Him, nailed His hands to the cross, and took His life:
And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last.
Through Yeshua’s sacrifice we (who follow Him) become blameless, and we are sustained and lifted up to inherit the Kingdom:
Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but YHWH sustains the righteous [w-somek tsadiqim YHWH].
YHWH knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, and in the days of famine they will have abundance. But the wicked will perish; and the enemies of YHWH will be like the glory of the pastures, they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives. For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, but those cursed by Him will be cut off. The steps of a man are established by YHWH, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because YHWH is the One who holds [somek] his hand.
Humans laid a hand to kill., but God held out His hand to sustain us, and lead us back to Him. We stumble and fall, but His hand guides us to the Kingdom nevertheless. Why? Because Yeshua paid the price for us to return home to the Garden. He took the fall and became the Light in the darkness for the upright, so we could make our way back to where we belong:
Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous.
It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; he will maintain his cause in judgment. For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever. He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in YHWH.
His heart is upheld [samuk libow], he will not fear, until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries. He has given freely to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted in honour.
Yeshua was the Light who arose in the darkness to illuminate life for us, and much like a shepherd, Yeshua protected and sustained His flock:
So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
We’re not just sustained in life, we are given more life than we could ever expect: abundant, everlasting, life. But this abundant life needs to have meaning! We need to be willing to fulfill YHWH’s purpose for our existence:
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me [tis’m’keni] with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.
We need to teach, and share, this great Love. And we need to share that there is a Kingdom that we all belong to… a place to call home… a place where we can be sustained by the hand of God. Into His hands, commit your Spirit!
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city; He sets up walls and ramparts for security. Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, the one that remains faithful.
The steadfast of mind Those whose mind/purpose is sustained [yetzer samuk] You will keep in perfect peace, because they trusts in You. Trust in YHWH forever, for in Yah YHWH, we have an everlasting Rock.”
Next week: Feet