Psalm 119:41-42 “May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word.
Psalm 119 is a meditation on the value and importance of God’s Word, but it isn’t an academic exercise. It is not a study for those who like ancient texts, or appreciate Hebrew poetry, or enjoy historical documents. The things it teaches us are more than theoretical positions we ought to defend. Here we come face to face with the living and enduring Word of God. What the psalmist wants is not just chapter and verse. He longs for, he prays for the grace and salvation we find in the Word. “May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise.”
Note the psalmist’s choice of words to describe God’s grace to us. There are two things his choice emphasizes. The English speaks of “love.” But the Hebrew term behind this word emphasizes that God’s grace or love is faithful, it will not change or end. The God whom we worship is not going to wake up in a bad mood some morning and grumble at us. He is not going to have a bad day at work, come home grumpy and direct his frustrations at us. Nothing can change his gracious and loving way of dealing with us because he is faithful.
What can we compare such grace and love to? Is there anything else so steady and changeless? We are so accustomed to people whose behavior toward us changes every day, sometimes hour by hour. They are unsteady and unreliable. We have accepted that our possessions are constantly wearing out and breaking. Our cars and homes require constant maintenance. There is nothing else like the unchanging, faithful love and grace of our Lord on which we can always depend.
The Hebrew word here also emphasizes that God’s grace and love is heartfelt. He does not treat us as he does because his grace is a cold principle of theology. It’s not just a law of the universe he is forced to follow. Our God is not a bookkeeper whose only interest is in how the numbers add up, whose only concern is making sure that we have kept our accounts with him paid up. Nor is he a government bureaucrat in a distant office writing welfare checks for people he doesn’t even know when he distributes his gifts to you and me.
Our God loves us from the heart. He cares for his children passionately. We know this best from the gift of his Son Jesus Christ that we have been given. What else would lead him to make the ultimate sacrifice, and give up his own Son, his only Son, the Son he loved in order to save us? What else would lead him to let his Son be falsely accused, and mocked and beaten, and crucified for the crimes that we have committed? The only reason he let this happen is that his heart desired to possess us as his very own. This gift, this grace, reveals my heavenly Father’s tender heart.
Is it hard to see why this changes our lives right now, not just how God regards us, not just our eternal future? Is it hard to see why God’s grace makes me bold? Siegbert Becker once described the powerful effect of God’s grace on our hearts this way:
“It is impossible to see ourselves as sinners deserving eternal damnation in hell, then to come to the conviction that the suffering and dying Christ has procured full and free forgiveness for us by taking our guilt upon himself and by giving us his own righteousness as a free gift of his love—it is impossible to come to that conviction without coming to love him who gave himself into death that we might have everlasting life. It is impossible to confess honestly that Jesus Christ has redeemed me, not with gold or silver but with his holy precious blood and his innocent sufferings and death, without realizing that this was done that I might be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness…. ‘To know him is to love him’ is more applicable to our Savior than to anyone else.’”
Once God’s grace has filled our hearts with such faith and love, it changes everything about our lives. In his introduction to the book of Romans, Luther discusses the change that faith born of God’s grace makes in our relationship to the people around us. “Faith is a living and daring confidence in God’s grace so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all his creatures.”
This confidence that God loves me, that his love is faithful, that his love is sincere and heartfelt, is why God’s love makes me bold.