God’s Great Sustaining Grace


“Now therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’:  Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.  I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.  I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. —Jeremiah 32:36-41

This reading for today is one of my favorite passages, and I am posting a portion of one of my favorite sermons  on this text. In the conclusion, John Piper asks us to notice four promises of sovereign, sustaining grace:

1. God Will Be Our God

God promises to be our God. Verse 38: “They will be my people and I will be their God.” All the promises to his people are summed up in this: “I will be your God.” That is, I will use all that I am as God—all my wisdom, all my power, and all my love—to see to it that you remain my people. All that I am as God, I exert for your good.

2. God Promises to Change Our Hearts

God promises to change our hearts and cause us to love and fear him. Verse 39: “I will give them one heart and one way that they may fear me always . . . (v. 40b) I will put the fear of me in their hearts.” In other words, God will not simply stand by to see if we, by our own powers, will fear him; he will sovereignly, supremely, mercifully give us the heart that we need to have, and give us the faith and the fear of God that will lead us home to heaven. This is sovereign, sustaining grace. (See Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 11:19–20; 36:27.)

3. God Promises We Will Not Turn Away from Him

God promises that he will not turn away from us and we will not turn away from him. Verse 40: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.” In other words, his heart work is so powerful that he guarantees we will not turn from him. This is what’s new about the new covenant: God promises to fulfill by his power the conditions that we have to meet. We must fear him and love him and trust him. And he says, I will see to that. I will “put the fear of me in their hearts”—not to see what they will do with it, but in such a way that “they will not turn from me.” This is sovereign, sustaining grace.

4. God Promises to Do This with Infinite Intensity

Finally, God promises to do this with the greatest intensity imaginable. He expresses this in two ways, one at the beginning and one at the end of verse 41: “And I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.” First he says that he will exert this sovereign, sustaining grace with joy: “I will rejoice over them to do them good.”

Then he says (at the end of verse 41) that he will exert this sovereign, sustaining grace “with all [his] heart and with all [his] soul.”

How Great Is God’s Desire to Do You Good?

He rejoices to sustain you and he rejoices with all his heart and with all his soul. Now I ask you, not with any sermonic exaggeration or rhetorical flourish or with any sense of overstatement at all—I ask you, I challenge you, can you conceive of an intensity of desire that is greater than a desire empowered by “all God’s heart and all God’s soul”? Suppose you took all the desire for food and sex and money and fame and power and meaning and friends and security in the hearts and souls of all the human beings on the earth—say about six billion—and you put all that desire, multiplied by all those six billion hearts and souls, into a container. How would it compare to the desire of God to do you good implied in the words, “with all his heart and with all his soul”? It would compare like a thimble to the Pacific Ocean. Because the heart and soul of God are infinite. And the hearts and souls of man are finite. There is no intensity greater than the intensity of “all God’s heart, and all God’s soul.”

And that is the intensity of the joy he has in sustaining you with sovereign grace: “I will rejoice over them to do them good . . . with all my heart and all my soul.” Some of you may be tasting the sweetness of this grace for the first time this morning. That is the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, and I urge you to yield to it and be mastered by sovereign, sustaining grace.

Others of you have lived in this sweet assurance for decades and simply join me this morning in exulting over this glorious reality in our lives. I invite you all to sing with me, to bless the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit for the sovereign, sustaining grace that has kept us as a church for 125 years and will keep God’s elect in the faith till Jesus comes or Jesus calls.

Not grace to bar what is not bliss,
Nor flight from all distress, but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain,
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.

To read or listen to the entire sermon, click here:

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