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LOVE BEYOND YOUR CONTROL

LOVE BEYOND YOUR CONTROL

crossheartlogo1O give thanks to the LORD for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures for ever…
Psalm 136:1-3

Recently I heard a battle-scarred minister suggest that the reason religionists so hate the simple Gospel of God’s love is because it would mean that we are not in control. It would mean that we are not in control of God’s love. We did nothing to make God love us and we can’t do anything to make Him stop. We are powerless to affect God’s love. It wouldn’t be about us anymore, but about Him.

Today’s Psalm text reminds that we cannot control God or His love. We see 26 times in 26 verses the repeated refrain “his steadfast love endures for ever.” This Psalm was known in ancient Israel as the Great Hallel, or, the Great Praise. People sang it at the Passover, praising God for His saving love at the Exodus. Jesus and His disciples sang it at the conclusion of the Last Supper (Matthew 26:30). The Psalm was sung antiphonally with the worship leader singing the first part and the people responding: “his steadfast love endures for ever.” Let it sink in!

I have copied today’s Psalm text from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Various translations render God’s “steadfast love” as “love”, “mercy”, “lovingkindness”, “covenant love”, “loyal love”, and “grace”. These various renderings reveal translators trying to wrap their arms around a Hebrew word so rich that it is impossible to find one English word equivalent. The word they are trying to encompass is the Hebrew word hesed. Old Testament scholars say that next to Yahweh, the name of God, hesed is the most important word in the Hebrew vocabulary.

The word hesed is related to the idea of a covenant that brings together two parties, and why many commentaries translate hesed as “covenant love”, or “loyal love”. Hesed denotes steadfastness, faithfulness, or loyalty to a covenant relationship. “When applied to God, it [hesed] speaks of a divine commitment and loving concern which remain unchanging in the face of all human frailty and fickleness.” (Robert Davidson, The Vitality of Worship: A Commentary on the Book of Psalms) In Israel’s temple “It was the duty of trumpeters and singers” to raise the song: “For the LORD is good, for his hesed endures for ever” (2 Chronicles 5:13). God’s hesed is the key to worship of God. His enduring love for us is to forever be praised.

The idea of covenant and covenant faithfulness is foreign in a litigious culture where we think in terms of contract. A contract says: “If you will…then I will”, and, “If you don’t….then I don’t.” Contracts are conditioned by performance, but covenants are without condition. God pledges Himself to us, for better for worse. Period!

The Bible reveals God entering into covenant with us through Jesus Christ. He pledges to us eternal faithfulness and loyal love. His steadfast love is forever! This means that God’s love for you is beyond your control. You did nothing to make God love you, and you can do nothing to make Him stop. All your doubts that God could love you can’t stop Him loving you! It’s out of your and my hands!

What’s left for us to do in the face of God unyielding, unchanging love? “O give thanks to the LORD for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.

Grace and peace,
Tim

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