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Pondering Steadfast Love

“We have pondered, O God, your steadfast love;

in the inward parts of your temple.”

(Psalm 48:10 {verse 9 in English})

On the value of pondering the covenant faithfulness of God! How rarely we give ourselves to that practice in an adequate way. In today’s world, it seems that we rarely ponder much of anything but are instead satisfied with sound bytes and five-second blurbs. Such is the plight of our world today.

The steadfast love of God — his dRsRj (chesed) — reflects the consistent faithfulness of God to his people despite his people’s covenant unfaithfulness. Ultimately, God is always faithful and we so regularly and consistently fall short. Further, we often turn away from the faithfulness of God so that we can pursue specific sin in one form or another. Yet, God remains faithful to his elect and the blessings of being connected to that faithfulness of God are impossible to contain with words. Hence, we meditate upon them — pondering God’s faithfulness.

It is my conviction, also, that a clear remembrance of God’s unwarranted faithfulness is the antidote to human pride. We fall short and have consistently fallen short; yet, God never falls short — he always remains faithful to his own. The bride of Christ will indeed be made ready. And just as the bride does not prepare herself, but is prepared, for the wedding day, God prepares the elect church for his Son, Jesus. Loved ones, ponder these things for they will help prepare you for a life of faithfulness.

God’s Faithfulness

“To declare your chesed in the morning;

And of your trustworthiness in the night;

Upon the ten strings and upon the harp;

With the sound of the zither.”

(Psalm 92:3-4 [verses 2-3 in English])


Again we find an emphasis on singing praise accompanied by the sound of instruments. The reference to the “ten strings” in Hebrew is unique to the book of psalms (33:2, 92:4, 144:9) and is likely a reference not simply to a small personal shoulder harp (which might have had 5 or 7 strings), but to a larger harp requiring more skill to play. Granted, depending on the dating of this psalm, much larger harps would have been familiar items; the ancient Egyptians had 22 strings on their full-sized arched-harp. Arguably this is one more reminder that this psalm has its focus the gathered worship of God’s people where skilled musicians (levitical or otherwise) would have been present, not simply to private worship.

The additional reference to the zither seems to reinforce both the corporate setting (as multiple instruments are being mentioned) and to skillful musicians required to play it. Often this word is translated as lyre, which shouldn’t surprise us as the lyre has its origins in the zither. Again, the emphasis of music in Sabbath worship.

Yet, what is more important is not the instruments used but for what God is being praised. Here, it is his “chesed” and his trustworthiness. The word chesed I have simply left untranslated as there is not a simple word-for-word equivalent of this idea. Ultimately it refers to God’s covenant faithfulness to his people (that’s us!) despite the covenant unfaithfulness of his people (sadly, that’s us too…). This we do not deserve, but this God graciously gives to his own to his own glory and praise. As the Apostle Paul wrote, salvation is by grace, not works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Indeed, it is worth praising our God for his faithfulness and for his chesed.

And it is for this faithfulness (amongst other things) that we praise God when we gather together on the Sabbath. The sad thing is that all-too-often, the lyrics of our praises are focused heavily on the individual, not on the God who saves the individual. Loved ones, remember, it is not our goodness or our works that brings about God’s faithfulness…God is faithful despite our lack of goodness and our failures…that is the essence of Grace. As the old Fanny Crosby hymn went… “To God be the glory, great things he has done!”

And you shall remember—for you were a slave in the land of Egypt and Yahweh, your God, redeemed you.  Because of this, I command this thing of you today.

(Deuteronomy 15:15)

By the Way, She is my Sister…Well, Sort of…: Genesis 20:12-13

And indeed, she is also my sister; she is daughter of my father only, not the daughter of my mother. And she is my wife. It was at the time which God caused me to wander from the house of my father, I said to her, “This is your loving-kindness which you shall do for me: in all the places which we enter, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’”

(Genesis 20:12-13)


A former pastor of mine used to tell me, “Win, the devil can justify anything.” Indeed, how often it is that we fall into the trap of justifying what we want even though it may not be the right thing to do. Abraham is trying to get away with doing just that here and it seems that God will allow him to do so; in his grace, sometimes God chooses not to punish every sin in this life, choosing instead to pass over them while at the same time, ultimately laying them upon the shoulders of his Son, Jesus Christ. In addition, while in a technical sense Abraham is telling the truth, the statement that Abraham makes is designed to mislead and thus is a lie regardless of his bride’s bloodline.

How often we are guilty of not only justifying our actions as if that would make them less sinful in God’s eyes, but also of telling lies and manufacturing “truth” to fit your situation. How often we tell lies without thinking about them or go to great ends to construct lies to suit the ends that they want to achieve. Even in the church, lies often abound and justification quickly follows for the purpose of minimizing the guilt of breaking God’s law.

Loved ones, sin is sin. Let us be honest in that principle and not make light that which God has commanded of us. Let us commit to the truth and commit to God’s command. Let us make the decision not to justify what we do when it is contrary to God, but let our yes be yes and our no be no with no “in-betweens.”


Yahweh Continually Commands His Chesed and His Song is With Me

“By day Yahweh continually commands his chesed

And at night, his song is with me—

A prayer of supplication to the God of my life.”

(Psalm 42:9 [verse 8 in English translations])


How deep it is that this verse is when we come to terms with its language and sentiment. To begin with, do not miss the wonderful title that is applied to God on high. He is called by the psalmist, “God of My Life.” Indeed, what wonderful thoughts come to mind when we apply this title to our great God and King. He is the originator of each of our lives and he numbers our days (Psalm 139:16). He orders all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11) and promises to work all things out for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). He has the right to take me here or there for purposes revealed or known only to him and he has the right not only to use me for those purposes but also to expend my life for those purposes. Indeed, every inch of my life is at his disposal from beginning to end and every ounce of my being and my day must be dedicated to his glory alone. Indeed, he is God of my life.

And as God of me life he responds with his dRsRj (chesed) and his song. Our Bibles translate dRsRj (chesed) in a variety of ways, trying to capture the essence of the word, but the idea of dRsRj (chesed) is reflected in God’s covenantal faithfulness toward us even when we fail to be faithful to his covenant. God indeed commands that towards his own. We wander and we stray, we often choose sin, and much like sheep, we can be cantankerous and difficult to keep moving in the same direction. Yet we are never forsaken. What a wonderful promise that is given in that simple principle. When Jesus utters the words, “I will never leave nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, also reference Matthew 28:20), that reflects the consistent testimony of God’s word throughout the Old Testament towards his people:

“It is Yahweh leading before you—he will be with you, he will not let you go, and he will not forsake you.”

(Deuteronomy 31:8)


“Blessed is Yahweh, who has given rest to his people, Israel, according to everything he continually promised. Not one word failed from all his good word which he spoke through the hand of Moses, his servant. Yahweh our God is with us as he was with our fathers. May he not abandon us; may he not give us up. He will stretch our hearts toward himself to walk in all of his ways and to guard his commandments, his regulations, and his judgments that he continually commanded our fathers.”

(1 Kings 8:56-58)


Even in redeeming his own from sin, God speaks through his prophet Hosea:

“And I will sow her myself in the land and I will have mercy on Lo-Ruhamah and I will say to Lo-Ammi, ‘you are my people.’ And he will say, ‘My God.’ “

(Hosea 2:23)


Yet, the promise does not end there. God also gives to us a song in our heart.

“My strength and melody is Yahweh,

He is to me salvation;

This is my God and I will glorify Him—

The God of my fathers, and I will exalt him.”

(Exodus 15:2)


“Praise Yahweh!

Sing to Yahweh a new song—

Songs of praise in the assembly of the faithful.”

(Psalm 149:1)


And indeed, when John sees the vision of heaven, one of the things he witnesses is the elders and the 144,000 still singing a “new song” to praise our almighty God. Indeed, the words of humanity could never exhaust the praise that is due to our God for what he has done for us, let praises continually fill our hearts and flood from our lips. My our life be a constant praise and witness to the goodness of God and may the song of our hearts not be the songs of this vulgar world, but ones that speak of the glory of the world to come…a subject of infinitely greater worth and beauty.

And thus we come before him with a prayer of supplication, not only asking for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, but also humbly asking God for the needs of the day to come. Indeed, did not our Lord himself teach us to pray for such needs as daily bread (Matthew 6:11)? Not only must we not forsake the privilege of coming before God’s throne, we also must never forget what a gracious gift it is to have been given such a great privilege. Indeed, our almighty God has shone his dRsRj (chesed) into our lives and filled our nights with his song—what more could we desire?



David in the Wilderness: Psalm 63 (part 4)

“For your covenant faithfulness is better than life;

my lips will sing praises to you.”

(Psalm 63:4 {Psalm 63:3 in English Bibles})


Those of you who know me well know that I sound a bit like a broken record when I get to verses like this, but I would hold that these things are essential for the Christian to understand.  The Hebrew word that is found in the first part of this verse is the word ds,x, (chesed).  This word is translated in a number of ways in our English Bibles, sometimes we see it as “mercy” or “loving-kindness” and sometimes we see it as “grace” or “faithfulness.”  It is a word that carries with it many ideas, but essentially reflects God’s covenant faithfulness in the midst of his people’s covenant unfaithfulness.  And, oh, through history, how God demonstrates his ds,x, (chesed) to his people. 

And indeed, David speaks some very important words here—he says that the ds,x, (chesed) of God is better than life.  Were it not for God’s covenant faithfulness, life would not be worth living, David communicates.  Were it not for the covenant faithfulness of God this world would have been swept away in his wrath over sin.  Were it not for the covenant faithfulness of God, you and I would be condemned to the darkness of eternal judgment.  Were it not for God’s covenant faithfulness, he would have never sent his Son to redeem a people for himself—to redeem you and me.  Friends, do you see just how important this word is to us—this characteristic of God?  Do you see how we could not live without it?  Oh, how often we take God’s covenant faithfulness for granted; let us be reminded by these words of David that it is better than life itself—it is what makes life worth living!

And as a result of God’s covenant faithfulness in your life and in the lives of believers everywhere, it ought to cause your voice to sing praises to God!  The verb that David uses in the second clause is the word xb;v’ (shavach), which means to sing loud praises—to laud another.  Beloved, when you look back at your own life and you see the hand of God at work, does it not make you want to sing!  When you look back through history and you see God’s hand at work in the lives of his people, does it not make you want to praise!  Oh, how often we take the work of God for granted in our lives—oh how often we take the covenant faithfulness of God for granted—as if it were something that was our due pay for services rendered!  Beloved, our infinite praise is God’s due pay for his covenant faithfulness!  So, let us get to work—it is a precious labor to praise our God.  No, we will never repay what we owe, but though we cannot repay, shall we not try?  Shall we not praise him for who he is and for what he has done?  It is a pleasant duty and a delightful task that has been set before us, indeed.

All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King,

To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring!

Thou art the King of Israel, thou David’s royal Son,

Who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and blessed One!

-Theodulph of Orleans

Show Favor to Me: Psalm 51 (part 2)

“Show favor to me, O God, according to your chesed;

according to your abundant mercy, wipe out my transgressions.”

(Psalm 51:3 [Psalm 51:1 in English Bibles])


For those of you who have been reading my devotional reflections for a while, you know that I think the word that David uses in the first line of this verse is extremely important.  In Hebrew, it is the word ds,x, (chesed), and is translated many ways in our English Bible to suit the context.  The idea that this word conveys is that of God’s covenant faithfulness to his people in spite of their covenant unfaithfulness.  It is because of the ds,x, (chesed) of God that we are not destroyed and that mankind was not destroyed at the time of the fall.  It is because of the ds,x, (chesed) of God that he demonstrated his agape love in sending his Son, Jesus, into this world to fulfill the law and offer a propitiatory sacrifice to atone for our sins.  It is because of the ds,x, (chesed) of God that we may know him and are not left to our own devices.  And it is because of the ds,x, (chesed) of God that he offers us forgiveness in Christ when we deserve nothing but wrath.  Indeed, this is a very significant word for us as God’s people!

There is a second thing that we ought to note about the language of this verse.  David’s prayer is that God would wipe out his transgressions.  The word that is used here is the Hebrew word [v;P, (pesha), which can refer to either individual transgressions or to the rebellion of a group of people.  It is valuable to note that we rarely take seriously enough the gravity of our own sins.  We usually see them as the stumbling of a fallen individual when it comes to trying to live a righteous life.  Yet, sin is more than simple stumbling—it is outward rebellion against a holy and a righteous God.  Indeed, as far back as Adam and Eve, sin has been rebellion against the righteous law and nature of God, and when we enter into it in our lives even today, we should recognize it as outward rebellion—rebellion that, by act, aligns us with the enemies of God.  Oh, beloved, until you recognize sin for what it is, you will always take forgiveness for granted; until you truly begin to hate your sin, you will not treasure the redemption that is found in Jesus Christ. 

David employs what is called a “chiastic” structure in this verse to add emphasis.  What that simply means is that the two halves of the verse are flip-flopped in what they convey:

Show favor  (A) Chesed  (B)

  Abundant mercy (B’) wipe out transgressions (A’)

This (ABBA) structure is called a chiasm after the Greek letter c (chi), and is commonly used in Hebrew poetry when the writer wishes to add emphasis what is being said.  Essentially, he is saying the same thing twice, just with different language to make his point.  In this verse, David begins by requesting God’s favor and ends the verse with the specific way in which he desires to see God’s favor enacted.  David is not asking to defeat an army or to perform a mighty task, but is asking that his sins be forgiven—indeed, there can be no greater sign of God’s favor than this.  At the center of the verse are two additional parallel ideas.  We have spoken of God’s chesed already, but here David adds further definition to the word by defining it in terms of God’s abundant mercy.  And indeed, once again, it is because of this abundance of mercy that God offers his chesed to his people.

Oh, loved ones, while sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of poetry, but they are important because they have been deliberately employed by the writer to convey a sense of meaning.  At the same time, do not lose sight of the reality of David’s situation—he has entered into horrendous sin, his child lays dying as a result, and he has come in penitence before God, pleading for mercy.  And note how he does so—it is not on the basis of who he is or what he has done, but it is on the basis of on who God is and what God has promised.  Beloved, as you walk through this life, you will enter into sins, the question that must be asked is how do you come before God in the wake of those sins?  Is it as one who is proud of the way they live, or do you beat your breasts like the penitent publican (Luke 18:13), pleading the mercy of our God?

God be merciful to me,

On thy grace I rest my plea;

Plenteous in compassion thou,

Blot out my transgressions now;

Wash me, make me pure within,

Cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.

-from the 1912 Psalter