Thursday, November 27, 2014

Psalm 118 - Enduring Love חֶ֫סֶד.

"I, yes I, am the One who comforts you.
So why are you afraid of mere humans,
who wither like the grass and disappear?
Isaiah 51:12
1Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
2Let all Israel repeat:
“His faithful love endures forever.”
3Let Aaron’s descendants, the priests, repeat:
“His faithful love endures forever.”
4Let all who fear the LORD repeat:
“His faithful love endures forever.”
5In my distress I prayed to the LORD,
and the LORD answered me and set me free.
6The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?
7Yes, the LORD is for me; He will help me.
I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
8It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in people.
9It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
10Though hostile nations surrounded me,
I destroyed them all with the authority of the LORD.
11Yes, they surrounded and attacked me,
but I destroyed them all with the authority of the LORD.
12They swarmed around me like bees;
they blazed against me like a crackling fire.
But I destroyed them all with the authority of the LORD.
13My enemies did their best to kill me,
but the LORD rescued me.
14The LORD is my strength and my song;
He has given me victory.
15Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly.
The strong right arm of the LORD has done glorious things!
16The strong right arm of the LORD is raised in triumph.
The strong right arm of the LORD has done glorious things!
17I will not die; instead, I will live
to tell what the LORD has done.
18The LORD has punished me severely,
but He did not let me die.
19Open for me the gates where the righteous enter,
and I will go in and thank the LORD.
20These gates lead to the presence of the LORD,
and the godly enter there.
21I thank you for answering my prayer
and giving me victory!
22The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
23This is the LORD’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.
24This is the day the LORD has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
25Please, LORD, please save us.
Please, LORD, please give us success.
26Bless the one who comes in the name of the LORD.
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27The LORD is God, shining upon us.
Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar.
28You are my God, and I will praise you!
You are my God, and I will exalt you!
29Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 118 is pretty much the center of the Bible and according to some counts verses 8 and 9 are the middle verses of the Bible. It's also interesting that it is situated between the shortest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 117, and the longest, Psalm 119. Fascinating stuff. Yet it is the truly wondrous theme of Psalm 118 that underlies the story of the Bible - "the enduring love of God"
The Hebrew word used for "enduring love" is very important in the Bible. It is particular Hebrew word, "Hesed" that does not have a simple direct translation into English. "Hesed" refers to God's particular love for His chosen people, based on the His covenant. It is God's commitment to those He is in relationship with, so it is different from God's love for the world in general, which is "Agape" love.
Isaiah 54:10 explains it like this: "For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then My faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken," says the LORD, who has mercy on you.,"  The phrase "steadfast love" is the same word, Hesed or חֶ֫סֶד.
This Hesed love, or covenant love, is the enduring love that sticks by the relationship no matter what it takes. This is the love God has for me if I am His. This is the canvas that the story of the Bible is woven into. King David, the author of this Psalm, details the applications of what it means to live with God's covenant love: 
  • pray to the Lord because He answers (v5-7) 
  • trust in the Lord because He is trustworthy (vv 6-9)
  • rely on the Lord because His name is powerful (vv 10-12) 
  • remember the strength of the Lord (vv13-16)
  • proclaim the deeds of the Lord because that is His plan (17-29)

When David is surrounded by enemies, on all sides, swarming around him like bees, God didn't airlift him out of his crisis. David fought in God's all encompassing power. Three times he says: "I destroyed them all with the authority of the LORD.God equipped him with the most powerful weapon He could, Himself!  When I act in God's authority, with His integrity, doing His will in order to glorify Him, then I will be able to overcome in His authority. In other words, in the name of the Lord I cut them off. This is illustrated throughout the psalm. Sixteen times in verses 5 to 18 David uses the covenant name of God, Yahweh, the Lord. He is fully conscious that everything he is doing is in God's authority.
David kept pressing forward recognizing that for all that life was throwing his way that God had spoken His covenant promise over His life. God had spoken there was no weapon formed against him that could truly prosper. There was no battle he could not win because God is a very present help in the time of trouble and yes, though enemies would rise up against him, they would stumble and fall. He knew in the time of trouble God will hide him in the shelter of His tabernacle. In spite of how dark the midnight, weeping will only endure for a night because as surely as God is - God's joy comes in the morning.  David proclaimed God's enduring love to all who would hear.
God's covenant love means that God is totally able, totally reliable to bring me through anything. It is all about His unfailing commitment to His people. God is supreme over anything. What a contrast to everything else I am tempted to cry out to, to trust, to rely on to fight with, to find strength in beyond my own! God says to take this seriously: He is God and God alone.
God's covenant love means the seemingly impossible is possible with God. Truth be told, that just like David, I sometimes find that it seems as if the whole world is trying to war against me. It seems like I have a Giant to face and nothing but a few pebbles for my defense. In short, I find that I get into places, situations and circumstances that seem impossible to overcome. And because of my inability to keep pressing through toward the mark of the high calling - I fall short of gaining the victory in Christ.
Every time that I allow anything, any one, any obstacle to deter me from being all that God has designed for me to be and all that God has designed for me to have - I fall short of the victory in Christ. Every time that I turn my back on the things that God has spoken into my spirit because I cannot discern with my natural eye how it can be possible - I fall short of the victory in Christ.
But, when I trust my LORD God…when I pray, trust, rely, remember - I am able to discern His voice even in the midst of any storm. I am able to step into the seemingly impossible with a confidence that knows that nothing is impossible with God. With this Godly confidence I am able to see and know that all things work together for the good of those that are the called according to His purposes. I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
God's covenant love means when I step into the fires of problems and trails knowing that God will be there God's covenant love means when I step out of the boat - God will keep me afloat because He will never leave me nor forsake me. God's covenant love means when I step into the face of a storm - I know that my Lord is here to speak "Peace, be still". In His enduring love - I fully comprehend the idea that no matter how bad today may look - it isn't over because I serve the One holds tomorrow. God always has the last word: His love endures forever.
Like David, may I proclaim to all who would hear how God's love endures forever!