Theme: God — Steadfast Love
“The word…lies at the heart of the biblical revelation of God” (Wm. Dyrness, Themes in Old Testament Theology, 58). It “is one of the riches, most theologically insightful terms in the OT” (Wm. Mounce, Expository Dictionary , 426).
That word is the Hebrew, hesed, and its meaning is difficult to capture with any single English word. Yes, it is love, but it is more intense, deeper and richer. It is variously translated as steadfast love, lovingkindness, unchanging love, everlasting love, covenant love, etc. It is also, depending on the context, sometimes translated as kindness, faithfulness, loyalty, or mercy.
God is, on the one hand, power and might, He is holy and righteous, He is just and sovereign. So much of what God is distances Himself from us. He is far removed from what we are. On the other hand it is His steadfast love that draws Him to us and bridges the gap. It moves Him to bind Himself to us and show His mercy and forgiveness when that is not what the circumstance—His holiness and our sin—demands.
So, not at all strange is the close association of several other words and concepts with God’s steadfast love. When we find the word is Scripture it is frequently coupled with words like truth, salvation, forgiveness, faithfulness, justice, compassion, redemption, and goodness.
Never are the words of Paul more meaningful, “That you…may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:17-19).
Readings and Introductory Comments:
Genesis 19:19; 32:10; 39:21; Exodus 15:13; 20:4-6; 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18-19; Deuteronomy 7:6-13
In choosing a man (Abraham), and through that man’s descendants to work His divine plan for ultimate salvation, we should anticipate the appearance of God’s steadfast love. It’s found explicitly in God’s dealing with Lot, Jacob, and Joseph. And also with the chosen nation whom He delivered from bondage in Egypt, brought through the wilderness, and to whom He gave a land to occupy.
1 Kings 8:23; 1 Chronicles 16:34, 41; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 6:14; 7:3, 6; 20:21; Isaiah 54:7-10; Jeremiah 3:12; 33:10-11; Lamentations 3:21-26; Hosea 11:1-4; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:12-13; Ezra 3:10-13; Nehemiah 1:4-6
The kings and prophets also knew God’s steadfast love. As there were few monarchs who faithfully served God, few spoke of His lovingkindness. Prophets were sent to His unfaithful people. And, yes, they told of His displeasure and punishment to come, but they also held out hope because of His unfailing love. He was not finished with His own. Sure enough, those who led in restoring the remnant following captivity acknowledge God’s continued mercy and compassion.
Psalms 5:7; 13:5; 17:7; 23:6; 25:7, 10; 26:3; 31:7, 16, 21; 32:10; 33:5, 18, 22; 36:5, 7, 10; 40:11; 44:26; 48:9; 51:1; 57:3, 10; 59:10, 16, 17; 63:3; 69:13, 16; 85:10; 86:5, 13, 15; 89:1, 2, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49; 90:14; 94:18; 98:3; 100:5; 103:4, 8, 11, 17; 106:1, 7, 45; 107:1, 8, 15, 21, 31, 43; 109:12, 16, 21, 26; 115:1; 117:2; 118:1-4, 29; 119:41, 64, 76, 88, 124, 149, 159; 130:7; 136:1-26; 145:8; 147:11
When it comes giving praise and honor to God—as the Psalms so frequently and consistently do—no greater reason exists to do so than for His steadfast love. The sheer number of times His hesed is praised and honored ought to impress us greatly.
Most of these are one-verse references, but note especially the emphasis given in the references in Psalms 89, 107, 118, and 136.
- Of what did Jacob say he was not worthy?
- Where was Joseph when God showed him steadfast love?
- What had God done with those he led in steadfast love?
- God’s steadfast love was motivation to keep what commandment?
- What does God do as result of His steadfast love? (v. 7)
- What did Moses ask God to do based on His steadfast love? (v. 19)
- What does God keep with those who love Him? (v. 9)
1 Chronicles 16:34, 41
- What was to be done to God since His steadfast love endures forever? (v. 41)
2 Chronicles 7:3
- For what reason did the people give thanks and worship the Lord? (7:3)
- What will God have for His people with everlasting love? (v. 8)
- What does Jeremiah say will happen because of God’s steadfast love?
- Why will I hope in God? (v. 24)
- How did God lead His people? (v. 4)
- What will God do with His people’s sins? (v. 19)
- Why are God’s people able to return to Him? (v. 13)
- What did the people sing? (v. 11)
- What does God keep with those who love Him? (v. 5)
- Where will the Psalmist go because of God’s steadfast love?
- What will follow me all my days?
Psalm 25:7, 10
- According to what does the Psalmist wish to be remembered? (v. 7) And not according to what?
- Whom does God’s steadfast love surround?
- How far does God’s steadfast love extend?
- What is God’s steadfast love better than?
- In what activity does the Psalmist participate because of God’s steadfast love?
- How great is God’s steadfast love?
- What were demonstrations of God’s steadfast love in Egypt?
- What should be said? (vv. 2-4)
- What events are remembered in vv. 4-9? In vv. 10-16? In vv. 17-22?
Why does God love us?
Do we feel compelled to deserve God’s love?
God’s steadfast love in the Old Testament is said to be the equivalent to His grace in the New Testament. In what ways is that true?
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23