Psalm 103 (Part 2) – The Love We Need

Reading Time: 7 Minutes

The focal point of this wonderful Psalm is a single Hebrew word, “hesed.” When I first studied Hebrew ages ago, I discovered the word was first known as “covenant keeping ability.”

How did a word that meant “covenant keeping ability,” get translated “steadfast love” or “constant love”?

God called the Israelite people into a personal relationship with him. There were two sides to the relationship, covenant or agreement. On God’s side, he pledged to be their God, to give them the promised land, and to care for their needs.

Israel, in turn, was to abide by the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

When Israel disobeyed the Ten Commandment and failed to keep their side of the covenant, God continued to uphold his part of the agreement. Thus, the Hebrew word “hesed” began to be understood as steadfast love or constant love.

I have asked Rudy Ross, a very good Hebrew student, to comment on the word “hesed.” His remarks can be found in the comments section of the blog. Thanks to Rudy for the insight he will give.

Constant Love in the Face of Unfaithfulness

One of the greatest tests of God’s constant love was when his beloved Israel rejected their relationship with him and worshiped a golden calf (Exodus 32). Psalm 103 remembers this time and God’s steadfast love in the face of the unfaithfulness of his people.

The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
(Psalm 103.6-9)

The Lord is just, but he is also merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. After Moses interceded in prayer for Israel, God revealed his very character to him.

In a personal and profound encounter, God “passed before him, and proclaimed,

“The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no means clearing the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.”
(Exodus 34.6-7).

God revealed himself and also his essential nature. He is just and does not give the guilty a free pass. The impact of their wrongdoing affects them and people who live in a close relationship with them.

That being said, notice the words that describe other aspects of God’s nature: merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and faithfulness.

Even after God’s people had broken their agreement with him, he continued to be faithful to them. They realized that God’s steadfast love was indeed abundant.

Forgiven

God’s steadfast love, grace and mercy is further illustrated in the next verses.

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.
(Psalm 103.10-14)

I deeply appreciate verse 14. I praise God that he knows how we have been made. He knows our childhood influences and the way our brains are “wired.”

I have an autistic grandson who, because of the way his mind works, may never be able to fully comprehend the abstract theology that is often part of church life. However, I am confident that he is in good hands – God’s hands.

For my grandson and so many other people I know, I praise God for these verses. His steadfast love is as high as the earth’s atmosphere and beyond.

His forgiveness is complete. His compassion is greater than any earthly parent.

We fully rely on God’s character of love and praise him for who he is.

Life is Short – God’s Love is Long

The guilty pollute people who come in contact with them for generations. Praise God, people who love God find that this relationship affects generations in their family, too.

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
(Psalm 103.15-18)

A few of my friends have told me about generations of their family members who have been involved with crime. One man explained to me that he was part of a generations long crime family.

Several of my friends have said something like this: “It ends here. I am the last of the criminal element in my family. We begin new with me.”

As we think about the brevity of our lives and influence of our behavior on children and grandchildren, a response like my friends is incredibly beneficial.

Life is short. God’s steadfast love, grace, faithfulness, and mercy is everlasting. The most important gift parents and grandparents can give to their families is to help them get in contact with God’s steadfast love and grace.

As we do that, we can be assured that the generations of our families will join the angel’s song of praise to God.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
obedient to his spoken word.
(Psalm 103.20)

May We Pray for You?

Maywood Baptist Church’s prayer team will be honored to pray for you. Please email me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team.

4 Comments

  1. Psalm 103 is a beautiful passage of praise and worship. Thank you, Pastor Bob, for highlighting all the beauty in it and tying it so perfectly with Jesus’s life and ministry.

    We have so much to be thankful for. It is so important to remember these passages, especially in dry seasons.

    When time for praise, my heart turns to song. This morning, lyrics tumble over one another from songs like “Waymaker” and “Raise a Hallelujah” but I settle into the sweetness of “Bless the Lord O My Soul.” He is worthy of our praise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank the LORD for placing the mantel of leadership on you, Bob, and for you saying yes to Him!
    The word “hesed” is a major theme in Jewish prayer because it speaks a truth about God His lovingkindness and that it lasts forever. Hesed (lovingkindness) is combined in prayer with “emet,” which means faithful and steadfast. Both of these words open a worshiper’s heart to Jesus. That was the plan, Hallelujah!

    Liked by 1 person

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