Steadfast love, Psalm 33

The English Standard Version (ESV) uses a term that I cherish: steadfast love. The King James (KJV) and New King James (NKJV) translate the same phrase as “goodness,” while the American Standard Version (ASV) translates it as “lovingkindness” and the New International Version (NIV84) uses “unfailing love.” Based on what I’ve heard from those who know Hebrew, the original word conveys God’s covenant loyalty, mercy, and love.

The ESV prefaces Psalm 33 with the heading: The Steadfast Love of the Lord. God’s faithful and unchanging love is a wonderful reminder on any Monday morning, but it’s especially meaningful on this particular Monday morning–as a gray day dawns in a bleak time.

Yet these weary circumstances come during the Christmas season, when we celebrate Christ’s first advent and anticipate his second. And that’s a reason to rejoice.

Psalm 33 begins by calling Christians to joy and praise:

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
    Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
    make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts 
(1-3, ESV).

The reasons for this rejoicing are God’s upright word and faithful work. These are aspects of his steadfast love:

For the word of the Lord is upright,
    and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord (4-5, ESV).

Our hindered vision may not always see God’s love of righteousness and justice, but they always exist. The earth pulses with these attributes of God. The whole world overflows with his steadfast love.

God created the cosmos and continues to sustain its entire scope by the power of his word:

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
    he puts the deeps in storehouses (6-7, ESV).

Everyone on earth should stand in awe of our Creator God:

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm (8-9, ESV).

God controls all the plans of people (10-12, ESV):

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

Even when evil seems to win, God is frustrating it. His counsel and the plans of his heart stand firm to all generations. God blesses people and nations who trust in him. He considers them as his own heritage.

God sees the hearts of all people. He sees their vain efforts to trust in worldly wisdom and personal powers:

The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
    and observes all their deeds.
The king is not saved by his great army;
    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
    and by its great might it cannot rescue (13-17, ESV).

The Lord knows every heart and he sees every deed. His eye never leaves those who trust and hope in his steadfast love:

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
    and keep them alive in famine (18-19, ESV).

But God does more than merely keep an eye on his people, he delivers their souls from death and preserves their bodies during life. He promises to keep us alive, even during the times that seem like famines from his presence.

Because we trust God’s promises, we can wait patiently for him to act:

Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you (20-22, ESV).

God will provide and protect. Our hearts can be glad in him when we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you!

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