The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. (Psalms 37:23-24)
On the last Lord’s Day, we read the first seventeen verses of Psalm 37. My remarks on this Psalm were about the hardships of the Christian life and how it seems we always fall behind the prosperity of the world. We are encouraged not to despair because this life is as good as it gets for the wicked. Though the evil man may appear to be prosperous, his prosperity is a mirage. He may clutch his title deed to the earth for a while, but soon all he has will be taken away. The earth belongs to God and is the inheritance of the people of God (v. 11).
This Psalm is filled with hope for the troubled Christian, but none is better than the words of verses 23 and 24. Think carefully on this phrase: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD…” These are the most hopeful words you will ever read. They speak of two great doctrines of the faith—God’s divine providence and His sovereign predestination. There is not a step you will ever take that God did not know you would take. He knows because He is the one that puts one foot in front of the other.
When God formed the world by His spoken word, He knew it would be inhabited by a race that He had chosen for His name. The beginning of man was in the predestination of God and we dare not think that after man was created God abruptly relinquished His divine providence. The fall in the Garden was not a surprise to Him and neither was the means by which He would restore all that was lost in that devastating event. If God should have relinquished control at that awful hour, there is not one soul that would ever have hope of redemption. Through the fall, we became completely corrupted. Every faculty of man was radically altered so that we are consumed with sin through and through. This radical corruption is what we call total depravity, and it left man in such a state that we are wholly incapable of looking up to God and helping ourselves in any way. We will not look because we care not to look. The scriptures say we became the enemies of God and of His righteousness. If God should leave us alone in our depravity, we are hopeless because we do not have the power or will to escape it.
The scriptures do not present a God who has abandoned us. We are enabled to come back to Him for one reason—His marvelous grace. In regeneration, He changes our disposition from hostility against His grace to openness to receive His grace. He orders the steps of repentance and faith. If you trust Christ as Saviour, you owe your trust to a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit. You did not change your mind; He changed your mind. Our statement of faith says accurately: “[He] secure[s] our voluntary obedience to the gospel” (Article 7). God’s method leaves Him alone responsible in all ways for our salvation.
With the tremendous costliness of salvation requiring the death of Christ for sin, how can we imagine that God who purchased our redemption with blood should ever let us go? When we fall, God does not cast us off. In the bleakest hour of our deepest despair, God still has His eye on us. He fully intends to raise us again and put us back upon the solid rock. The timing of His lifting is also His alone. We know it cannot be too long because the time of life is nothing compared to eternity. Our long time is God’s short time.
The promise is providentially intact. He sees with His eye but goes much further—He holds with His hands. We know we can never sink too low to be beneath His tender embrace. We often say, “Keep the faith!” We shall because we are kept by the power of God (1 Peter 1:5).
Pastor V. Mark Smith