GOD’S FAITHFUL LOVE
Psalms 85–89“Great is Your love toward me; You have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave” (Ps. 86:13).Confidence that God loves us undergirds our faith. We trust Him, not only because He is able to help, but because He truly cares.
We experience God’s love through a forgiveness (Ps. 85) that awakens commitment to Him (Ps. 86). God loves Zion (Ps. 87). And though we may experience despair (Ps. 88), we remain objects of His love and faithfulness forever (Ps. 89).
Understanding the Text
In forgiveness God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace all meet. “You forgave the iniquity of Your people” Ps. 85:1–3. “Iniquity” is willful, rebellious sin. Even this God forgave, and covered His people’s sins. “Restore us” Ps. 85:4–7. As a forgiven people, God’s own can expect renewed blessing as the Lord shows His unfailing love. God’s promise of peace to the forgiven is contingent. Peace comes only to those who fear God and turn from “folly” (moral evil). “Love and faithfulness meet” Ps. 85:10–13. How can we understand forgiveness? By seeing it as a place where God’s love, faithfulness, and righteousness unite to bring peace. Because God loves us, He forgives. Because He is faithful to His covenant promises, He forgives. Because God is righteous, He pays the price in Christ that forgiveness requires. Where these three qualities unite in forgiveness, man is restored to that state of peace (well-being) which Adam and Eve first knew. Viewing forgiveness as an expression of God’s character and attitude toward man, we can be sure that “the Lord will indeed give what is good.” Psalm 86: The Undivided Heart. The forgiven man responds to God with gratitude, commitment, and trust. “I am poor and needy” Ps. 86:1–4. The forgiven man acknowledges his need for mercy, and looks only to God for salvation and for joy. “You are kind and forgiving” Ps. 86:5–10. The forgiven man recognizes the source of his blessing in God’s character. Having experienced God’s love, he prays freely to the One who alone can do marvelous deeds. “Teach me Your way, O Lord” Ps. 86:11–13. The forgiven man focuses completely on God. With an undivided heart he seeks to learn and to walk in God’s way. The forgiven man responds to God’s great love with a wholehearted effort to glorify the Lord. “You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God” Ps. 86:14–17. Under attack by the arrogant, the forgiven man appeals to God for mercy, and confidently expects the Lord to provide signs of His goodness. When you and I realize that we truly are forgiven, we too respond to the Lord with an undivided heart. Psalm 87: Zion. The city of God reflects His glory. “Zion” Ps. 87:1–7. The Zion of the Bible is first Jerusalem, the city God chose as the focal point of Old Testament worship; the location of His ultimate revelation of love in Christ Jesus. God chose Zion simply because of His love for this place from which His grace shines out on all men. This psalm emphasizes the fact that Zion is not only a place, but also a people. To be born in Zion is to be one with the people of God, who gather round His revelation and rejoice in the Lord. The stunning emphasis of this psalm is that those who have been Israel’s historic enemies, Rahab (Egypt), Babylon, and Philistia too, will one day know the Lord. It will be said of them as well as of Israel, “This one was born in Zion.” What an amazing reminder of God’s grace, nestled here among psalms that celebrate forgiveness. And how we need to remember that those who seem God’s most implacable enemies remain the objects of His forgiving love. Psalm 88: In Distress. Those who know God well may still experience unremitting pain and grief. “Day and night I cry out” Ps. 88:1–18. Most psalms which express despair or distress lead us from the depths to the heights. We share the psalmist’s pain. But then our hearts are lifted as the psalmist turns his thoughts to the Lord. In affirming God’s greatness or love the psalmist shows us where we can find peace. This psalm is different. It speaks of an unrelenting darkness. Heman, its author, found himself “in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.” Though he called out to God “every day,” there was no answer, and the psalmist felt rejected by the God on whom he depended. And this had been his lot “from my youth”! He had been afflicted, in terrors and despair, as long as he could remember. What is the value of a psalm like this one? It reminds us that faith promises no 30-minute resolution of our problems, nor 30-second spiritual highs! There well may be days, weeks, or even years when all seems dark, and God remains silent. While faith frequently offers us inner peace in outward turmoil, some men and women with a true faith will find themselves living in unexpected, and unexplained, dark. When that happens, we need not blame ourselves, as if the darkness were evidence of some personal spiritual lack. Psalm 88 reminds us that for some, who honestly trust and cry out to God, the answer is withheld and the darkness remains. When this happens, and we cannot say why, then we must believe that even the darkness is a gift, intended by God to be our “closest friend.”
Falling Out of Love(Ps. 89)
We read about it all the time. Sometimes we even experience it. “I’ve just fallen out of love with my husband,” the young wife writes to Ann Landers or complains to a counselor of “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” in the Ladies Home Journal. Or, perhaps the glow fades in our own marriage, and your spouse says, “I just don’t love you anymore.” I suspect that many married couples in this land of ours, where divorce seems destined to strike 51 percent of those who marry for the first time, live with a conscious uncertainty about love. They aren’t sure whether they are loved. Or even whether they really love their partner! What reassurance we find in Psalm 89 that our relationship with God is different. There is no uncertainty here. God does love us. In fact, His love “stands firm forever.” He is by nature a faithful Person: He will not take His love from us, and promises, “Nor will I ever betray My faithfulness.” We can be comfortable in our relationship with God because He loves us with an unconditional, unchangeable love. Psalm 89 is a long psalm. But it celebrates something basic in the nature of God, and vital to our relationship with Him. Because God’s love stands firm forever, because faithfulness surrounds Him, we who walk in His presence are assured of blessing, of strength, and of a ready answer to our prayers. In the Old Testament the throne is a symbol of not only human but divine rule. In the psalmist’s exalted vision of God, His throne and the throne of the coming Messiah, “will endure before Me like the sun; and it will be established forever” (Ps. 89:36–37).
Read the psalm thoughtfully. What evidence does it give that God is faithful forever? What does the fact of God’s faithfulness mean to you?