His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
There is one thing in the world, one thing, that if we knew for certain, would absolutely change the way we went about everything in life. One thing, that if we could be certain about it, would bring about so much more clarity and peace about everything else in life. And that one thing is this: Does God love me?
Think about it, now how would your current situations change if you knew for certain that the God of the universe,the one who has directed and sustained your life up even into this moment, and holds your future in his hands, loves you with a relentless, always present, never ending, and loyal love?
The understanding of God’s love should be so ingrained in your life, that it affects all aspects of your being. All relationships, all commerce, all dealings, all enjoyments, all difficulties, all successes, and all experiences, what else has this permeability?
This is a poem or song or hymn of praise penned by an unknown author of the Israelite community written in order to remind Israel of what God has done for them, how he has loved them, and to lead them in a response of continual praise of His character. What the psalmist does is walk us through four pictures or four accounts of God’s love toward sinners. We will see God’s love for the wanderer, for the rebel, for the fool, and for the overwhelmed. And those who this was specifically written about, would deeply feel the truths and would give deep amens to acknowledge the truth of these statements. But it wasn’t written just for the generation that experienced those acts of God.The bible was written for all who have and still need to experience the love of God in Jesus Christ. It is continually fresh because God is continually fresh in dispensing his love to us. We will see that clearly as we walk through the text. As we do that, you too will be able, like those who first read this, to deeply identify and agree with the words on these pages and want to respond in the same ways. And we, like those who experienced these things first hand, can join in on the praise of God for his great love toward us.
This is the premise of the whole chapter: His steadfast love endures forever. What does it mean that God’s love is steadfast to his redeemed people? It means his love is always present, unending, and loyal.
His love is always present.
- This means in your deepest fear, failures and rebellion God is always near to give you grace
- This affects your relationship with God – and how or if you come to him. The love of God saves you from despondency and isolation.
His love is unending.
- This means as your deepest fear, failures, and rebellion continues and persists, God still meets you with more grace. Because his grace always outlasts your sin.
- This affects your attempts of self salvation projects and legalism, because God doesn’t love you more when you obey him more. Grace saves you from the guilt brought on by your own performance.
His love is loyal.
- This means he is persistent and doesn’t give up on you.
- This affects your hope. Even when you feel like all of you is just saying I am no good, I can’t do this, I can’t stop doing this. He sets his eyes on you. He is steadfast in his love. It’s also a motivation for holiness. We know he is enabling us to walk out our faith.
It isn’t just a feeling. This is true in our relationships isn’t it? When we first get together with someone, we have that awkward couple weeks or so when we want to say we love each other but each one is scared to say it. That happened with Christy and I. I wanted to make sure that Christy loved me before I said it so that I wasn’t hit with the awkward response of “thank you” when I finally let the I love you out. When I was asking myself, “Does she love me?” I wasn’t thinking, “Well, she hasn’t said it yet so she must not”. Rather, I was thinking, “Has she shown her love?” And I knew! Of course she loves me, look at all she does for me, look at how much she cares for me! When we see they are proving their love with their actions, we feel comfortable enough to tell them we love them because we know they are going to want to say it too!
And it’s a love we need to hear about. Seattle desperately needs to hear of God’s love!(vs2-3) God is gathering his people! How do you think this church is formed? The truth that God is saving people should propel us to mission in Seattle. And Seattle desperately needs to hear of God’s love because God is actively pursuing people in Seattle to pour out his love on! This is a promise from God that we should beg to see its fruit. As we proclaim and share the love of God in Christ – sinners are redeemed. We see new believers get baptized, get into community, become leaders, plant churches, and the world starts to change!
#1 God’s love to the wanderer. (vs4-9)
Who is the wanderer? Here we see the wanderers are those who live their lives without direction, and lacking satisfaction. But that’s the exact opposite of how God had created us. He created us to live with true direction and with ultimate satisfaction! God had created us to live under his direction, and enjoying the satisfaction that comes from unbroken communion from Him. And the wanderer understands that life isn’t the way it is supposed to be. They are looking for human races first and original satisfaction, yet they look in all the wrong places. And the Bible calls this idolatry – it’s when we replace God from his rightful position in our life with things that can’t do his job. And instead of God being God in their lives, other things take his place. They look to places that just leave them hungrier, and thirstier and lost.
Start Now, Retire Early Bob and Penny took early retirement from their jobs, when he was 50 and she was 51, now they live in Punta Gorda Florida where they cruise on their 30 foot crawler, play softball, and collect shells.
“That’s a tragedy, and there are people all over this country spending billions of dollars trying to get you to buy that dream. The American dream, a nice house, nice car, nice job, nice family, nice retirement – collecting shells. As the last chapter before you stand before the creator of the universe to give an account with what you did. Here it is lord, look lord, my shell collection, and I’ve got a good swing, and look at my boat!” – John Piper
Why is this so common? It’s because we have such a strong tendency to fill our lives with false dreams and ambitions in order to push out the fact that we are just wandering! What are you filling your life with so that you won’t realize that you are wandering?
When we use these things to fulfill our wandering, they don’t fill up the tank of our hearts! Are we kidding ourselves? We were made to enjoy God! We are expecting something to do the work it wasn’t made to do. Us wanderers suffer from what some call“Hedonic Adaptation”. In our quest to satisfy ourselves, we adapt to what we enjoy and we need more of it next time. But if we zoom out from our lives just for a moment, we see that there is no backbone to all these things we are doing and they are horrible things to build our lives on. Nothing ever satisfies!
Look at this wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2: 9-11:
So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
Thats what I am asking you to do this morning. Consider all that your hands have done.Have you really gained anything?
Look at verses 7-9. These are the results from the people recognizing their wandering and crying out to God. These are the results of God’s love on the modern day wanderer who comes to God.
I don’t even need to say anything about those verses. I know they touch a deep part of our souls. The broken communion with God, the separation that has caused our dissatisfaction with almost all things, has been restored! Weigh these things out – the American dream or complete and utter satisfaction in God? A life filled with things to cover up your wandering or a soul filled with lasting, good things? God wants you today to recognize your wandering and start living for him. To give your life to him, finding satisfaction in him!
But what if I am still a Christian and experiencing wandering? My actions don’t show I am fully sold out for Jesus. I still don’t let him rule and reign and direct my life like I know he should. I don’t feel satisfied and my life has just been marked lately by a dry, uncertain, lackluster faith.
Don’t be afraid to admit your need. He isn’t only available when your in spiritual turbo mode. He knows we aren’t okay, hey meets us there to bring us out of it. How many of us, when we are experiencing particular seasons of dryness actually cry out to the Lord for help. He promises to answer! Ask God to help you, ask him to restore that communion, ask him where you’re wandering, ask him to show you how he has loved you. But if we don’t, and we just let our feelings of wandering go rampant, we may never know what it means or what it feels like to live a life with satisfaction. It might be a simple prayer. “Jesus, I am wandering, find me and bring me home to you, give me direction and satisfaction in You!” This neediness, is the context of where God’s love is shown most clearly.
#2 God’s love to the rebel. (vs10-16)
Who are the people God sets his love on in these verses? v10 says they are in darkness and v 11 calls them rebels.
These rebels are actually familiar with the Lord, they are familiar with his word. They have a healthy dose of bible to direct them, yet they refuse to believe it, refuse to accept it and refuse to live by it. These are “insider rebels”. They are inside the community of God – Israel in this text, but for us we may be in a Christian family or have all Christian friends, or were brought up with a biblical worldview, or even Christians ourselves. Let’s redefine the word rebellion and accept the biblical argument that rebellion is knowing God’s word, and not living by it.
And if that’s the case, then we are all rebels right? Even those of us who love Jesus. We are Jesus loving rebels. But why don’t we admit that? In experience, We give our lives to Christ, start fighting sin, start living in community, and yet we catch ourselves rebelling over and over again. But we would never call ourselves rebels! Instead of calling sin rebellion, which it clearly is, we call it, “missing the mark” or “just a mistake” or we even say, “I didn’t wanna do that.” We do that because we don’t want to face the facts, that we, as Christians, still rebel against God.
But when we toy with our sin, we toy with the absolute love and grace of God. If your sin is miniature, God grace is miniature. But I think that it goes deeper than just not wanting to face the facts. I think its because we only think God’s love is for those outside of faith in Christ. We think God love comes to us when we were once sinners, and then we stay within that love by our performance. If God grace is gigantic to both the unbeliever and believer, we won’t be afraid to speak truthfully about our sin, that its gigantic too! We can admit we are rebels because God shows his love to rebels.
We see here that it takes God himself to turn rebel into sons. God can deliver you. There are sins in our life that we can actually change. But there’s only one problem, you cannot free yourself from prison. You need keys. The God who holds your growth and progress and exit from rebellion, stands with you in love, eager to work in you. He is not holding his love at the end of a string waiting for you to reach a certain level on your own until he gives you grace to stop rebelling (which is often how we think). He just pours it out. You ask, he gives. In our practical life, we think we have to clean ourselves up before God will accept us. There is nothing farther from the truth. Look at these rebels, they are absolutely fleeing all they have come to know as true, yet God meets them in their rebellion. When we try to clean ourselves up, we are really trying to save ourselves. Our self salvation project is never successful. God will never say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant, you have saved yourself. You did it!”
That’s legalism. Using our righteousness to gain a warranted or merited standing before God. Legalism is an absolute enemy of the love of God because it shrinks it. No one is saved by legalism! When we start to believe we are saved by our righteousness, slowly and slowly God’s love becomes smaller and smaller, and ultimately useless when because so holy that we don’t need a savior!
#3 God’s love to the foolish. (vs17-23)
Sin is foolishness. We are foolish because of our sin. This is why the Bible refers to people as sheep. It’s not a compliment. We are just dumb sheep. No matter how brilliant or successful or pretty or powerful, we are spiritually no better than some dumb sheep. This is summed up in the proverb,
“There is a way that seems right to a man – but in the end it leads to death.” Prov 14:12
You are not your highest authority. If you are the compass of your life direction and morals, you will never live the life God created you to live. And there is freedom that you are missing out on because of your refusal to let Jesus be your King. I understand the world thinks it’s foolish to let God rule your life, but isn’t it more foolish to live life trying to overthrow the true King of the world. Jesus wins in the end, no matter how successful you are today at running your own life, he wins in the end.
Sometimes, our foolishness isn’t obvious.
- Maybe our foolishness is disguised in “wisdom” – We approach the bible and say, I am going to compare this to how I have experienced life, see where they match, and ignore the rest of his words.Thats foolish because God is our highest authority. We don’t stand over the bible to say what is right and wrong, the bible stands over us telling us right from wrong.
- Maybe foolishness is cloaked in “sincerity” – I just want people to feel as comfortable as possible, and as long as they are okay with it, its okay for them. Then who have people doing horrible things all for the sake of sincerity. But there’s a problem, because no one is justified by sincerity. Sincerity is only a noble characteristic when it is based upon truth. You can be sincerely wrong and be in a horrible situation, namely, sincerely unjustified.
- Maybe your foolishness if hidden under absolute selfishness. I need to do this, even I need to do this, even if it hurts others. I am living my life, don’t get in my way. This usually leads to sins of omission, are you there for your friends, are you getting in time with the lord? Is your life revolving around the mission of God? Are you giving?
- Or what about wisdom cloaked in a sense of entitlement? You expect God and others to repay you for your self assessed goodness. You have worked so hard to get this far, it’s only right that God would give you that raise. You helped that person and now they don’t want to remember you when you need help? But the truth is, we are not entitled to anything. And within our relationship to God, we are actually entitled to something. We are entitled to get what our sins deserve. Are you sure you want God to give you what you deserve? The truth of God’s committal to punishing sin should remind us that our sense of entitlement is complete foolishness.
How does God’s love come to the foolish? What’s interesting about the text is that It wasn’t until they were close enough to the gates of death that they cried out to God. Sometimes if we could just see the end result of our sin, we would be awakened to the reality of its foolishness. Proverbs describes falling into lust like walking straight into a slaughterhouse. For some of us, this is what it will take. God will extend his love to you one way or another. Even it mean through bringing you to the brink of death. And God is giving us this picture so that we would learn that foolishness does not pay off in the end. We can come to him now and experience true life now! God loves us because he loves us, despite our rampant rebellion, despite our wandering, despite the foolish sins we commit.
#4 God’s love to the overwhelmed. (v23-32)
Here we see a group of people doing business in the sea get absolutely tossed around from a sudden storm. They were once confident and proud, but the waves become too much and their courage melted away. The parallel is obvious. Sometimes, life is a lot. It seems like the only way you are seeing God at work is how he is tossing you around like a rag in the wind. Maybe you’re asking where is God? Why isn’t he showing up? Why does my life seem to feel like hurdle after hurdle, why am I getting knocked down every time I get up? It seems like all of your prayers have turned to questions.
This is why it is important to know that God’s love is persistent and unending. God does not tire of extending his love to you. You may be thinking, “I keep coming to god with my junk and I am pretty sure he is tired of it. I keep coming to God for relief but I am sure he’s sick of it.” We can be like the persistent widow because God is the persistent lover. Where in the bible does it say stop coming to the father, suck it up and fix it all yourself. And we see here read in verse 28 that they did just that. They cried to him. They admitted their weakness and in his persistent and loyal love, he answers their prayer. He calms the storm, he delivers them from their distress.
Does this mean God will calm all the storms of my life if I just ask? Well, not exactly. God cares and acts in all the storms of life, but he only specifically promises to deliver us from a certain storm. It is the storm of our spiritual mess and of his wrath. When we come to Christ for forgiveness for our sins, he calms the storms of our spiritual mess by forgiving us and cleansing us and causing us to walk in his ways and giving us new desires. And God also calms the storms of his wrath that we were headed for by sending Jesus to the cross. And if Jesus would take care of life’s worst storm, don’t you think he would be there with you, extending his love, amidst all the other storms of life?
This picture of deliverance can be absolutely true for us. A storm is coming, not only is it on its way, but we are, with our thoughts motives and deeds, actually calling the storm in. Yet if we come to Jesus, he will deliver us, he will say to us, I love you and I took that storm upon me so that it wouldn’t overwhelm you.
The picture of deliverance we see in each of these accounts is the deliverance that comes through the gospel!
To the wanderer.
The one who lives with no real direction or motive or purpose. On the cross Jesus was treated like a wanderer. He was left hungry and thirsty and unsatisfied so that you could be satisfied in Him. He took all of your aimless wasting of life on himself to give you purpose and to bring you into his family.
There is a really exciting parable Jesus teaches in Luke 15: 3-7. Here we see a picture of a wanderer using the image of a sheep like I talked about earlier, who isn’t left to die out on his own. Rather, God goes after that person. He goes after him grabs him, puts him on his shoulders and rejoices his way back to the camp. Don’t you see the good news in that? He came after you in Christ. On the cross Jesus paid for all of your wandering. All of your life spent outside of following Him, he paid for the penalty that was due to bring you to God. Christ died so that God could put you on his shoulders and rejoice over you. Will you stop your wandering and be found! There is nothing to fear, God’s love is the best embrace. We should continually run to it!
To the rebel.
Did you know Jesus was treated like a rebel specifically because of and for you? There was a swap that took place on the cross. The innocent God man Jesus, who lived the perfect life that you were meant to live, died under your penalty for your rebellion. He took your sin, you get his perfect righteousness! The father poured out all his wrath against your rebellion on Jesus so that you could be forgiven. Lets look at one of the next parables in Luke 15: 11-24. Do you see it? The rebel is made a son! Instead of the father rejecting the son because of his rebellion, he runs to him and embraces him out of love! Its such good news the rebel doesn’t even believe it! “I don’t deserve to be accepted”. Jesus paid for all of your rebellion, so that you could be named a child of God. He loves you in your rebellion and out of your rebellion.
To the foolish.
Jesus was no fool, but he died the death of the fool. He entered into humanity as a man, died for the foolishness of man, so that you could live free from foolishness. If you walking according to your own way today, know that Jesus died so you wouldn’t. He died so that you would know what it means to walk in forgiveness and joy and with absolute freedom under his reign. And if you think you are freer not following Jesus, think, God wouldn’t have gone through torture and death unless you were wrong. There is freedom in following Christ, and you can have a taste of it today.
Here is the big idea in each of those accounts. God absolutely loves you with always present, a persistent and loyal love. The truth is, even when you are wandering, he loves you, even when you’re rebelling, he loves you, even when you are foolish, he loves you, and even when you’re overwhelmed he loves you. But what about if I have rebelled again? He loves you. What if I keep returning to my foolish ways, he sees you with love, he has not turned his back on you, his love is loyal. The good news of the gospel is Romans 5:8:
Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God loved us at our worst when he put your sins on Christ, and he continues to love you at your worst today.
And what if I think I’m good and don’t really need all that forgiveness stuff? God loves you enough to tell you today that you are not good outside of him. He loves you enough to replace your sense of entitlement and pride with a heart of gratitude and thankfulness for the underserved gift of forgiveness.
When the needy go to God something crazy happens. They become new people. There is a collision that takes places between needy people and the love of God. God loves on needy people and they change! We can be satisfied, we can be free, we can have joy, we can be glad! The unloved become loved! The uncertain become certain. Why? Because God’s love is always present, unending and loyal. Because of what Jesus has done for you, God is 100 percent for you. Even when you are at your worst.