The One Who Upholds
A little over seven years ago, one phrase in the first chapter of the book of Hebrews grabbed my attention. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Seven years later, I still don’t know exactly what that means. My mind is too small to grasp it all. How does Jesus uphold the universe by the word of his power? The NIV puts it, “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” That’s good but less majestic. King James says, “upholding all things by the word of his power.” Nearly the same as the ESV but, still, for as wonderfully poetic as the King James is, this still feels less other-worldly to me. It’s not just all things Jesus upholds. It’s the universe, and that word lifts me up above mere things into the cosmos. When thinking of such glory, we should rise so high.
Jesus is the one who upholds the universe.
What does it mean that Jesus upholds the universe? It means he’s got the whole world in his hands. He’s got the itty bitty baby in his hands. He’s got you and me brother in his hands. He’s got you and me sister in his hands. He’s got the whole world in his hands. All things included. The depths of the earth, the heights of the mountains, the valleys of the ocean, the brightness of the stars, the warmth of our sun and all others. Every planet, every comet, every galaxy swirl in his great, big, giant palms. Every tear of every child he bottles, keeping count of their tossings, one day to wipe every tear from their face with the hands that uphold the world and everything in it. He’s got the whole world in his hands, down to the tears our sorrows produce.
This upholding is not a mere Atlas-holding-the-world-on-his-shoulders statuesque model. It is softer, more flexible, flowing through the ages, going where it will, where it must. The NIV’s “sustaining” is the true meaning of the ESVs “upholding.” It’s an upholding that both supports and sustains. It’s an active upholding. As Chrysostom said, “a greater work than that of creation.” Bringing something into existence is one thing. Upholding and sustaining is quite another. One can be finished and left. One is finished yet never finished. And the only work Jesus is finished with is the finished work of the cross. Everything else is ongoing, constant, to the uttermost of time and season. Jesus rests from his atoning work, but not from his upholding work. He rests from the troubled breaths of the cross in his humanity, but not from the life-giving breaths of the savior is his divinity.
Charles Spurgeon warns us to “shade our eyes, for you cannot look upon this wondrous sight without being dazzled by it.” Dazzled! What last dazzled you? Do you even dazzle anymore? Children do. My two-year-old does nothing else. He’s continually dazzled. And the author means for us to be continually dazzled by this phrase. Jesus is so far above, so majestically glorious, that all the adverbs and adjectives in the world, should they be written about him, would with ink the ocean fill.
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Dazzling, to be sure.
Jesus is the one who upholds the universe…by the word of his power. Oh, the powerful word of Christ! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)
If it were not for the upholding, sustaining power of Jesus the world would fail. As John Calvin said, “All things would instantly come to nothing, were they not sustained by his power.” Christ upholds all things such that not one molecule fails to do it’s appointed task. Not one ant goes off course. Not one leaf withers and falls out of place. He upholds all things well.
And since he upholds such small things, he therefore also upholds such big things. He also, as Spurgeon reminds us, upholds me and you as well. “Surely, if Christ upholds all things He can uphold me. If the word of His power upholds earth and heaven, surely, that same word can uphold you, poor trembling heart, if you will trust him.”