God of Steadfast Love and Faithfulness
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...
- Exodus 34:6
Last week we covered the mercy, patience and grace of God. Today let’s dive into two core and most popular Attributes of God. LOVE and FAITHFULNESS. These two attributes are inseparable and define each other. Consider this Psalm:
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
Beforewe explore these two powerful attributes, it is important to understand though that the promise of God's Faithfulness can never be divorced from the context of COVENANT RELATIONSHIP with God. In theOld Testament, God chose the nation of Israel and those who will give allegiance to the God of Israel as He gave His promises. He had a covenant relationship with them that's why they can expect God's faithfulness, claim and experience His promises. In a covenant relationship, it is a two-way promise. God also expected faithfulness from the Israelites. But as we all know the story, the Jews kept on breaking God's laws and their vows to God. Inspite of this, God remained full of mercy and grace towards them and His faithfulness was never shaken. Thus, the assurance of Exodus 34:6.
As New Covenant believers the special grace and covenant promises of God can only be claimed by Christians - thosewho have believed and received Jesus as thir Lord and Saviour and placed their trust and allegiance on Him. As much as the goodness of God provides common grace to the world (The sun shines on both the good and the wicked); His free, salvific and Fatherly blessings and saving grace can only cover those who have submitted their lives to Him. That is why it is urgent for us to share this good news of salvation to everyone so that they too can know and experience the personal love and faithfulness of God in their lives.
Q1: What is the difference between Common Grace and Saving Grace?
Q2: Why is a covenant relationship a pre-requisite to claim and experience the covenant faithfulness of God?
The Hebrew word translated as “love” is khesed. There is no good English translation for the word khesed, as we don’t have a word in English that encompasses all of the nuanced meanings of the Hebrew word. Khesed is a type of affection you have for someone, but it’s more than affection. It’s also a loyal or steadfast commitment to being generous to that person for the long run. Khesed combines the ideas of love, generosity, and enduring commitment all into one. Khesed describes an act of promise-keeping loyalty that is motivated by deep personal care.
Bible translators have been trying to figure it out for generations. And you can see this by how many different translations have been done for this important Hebrew word. Its' been translated as “Steadfast love”; “Lovingkindness”; “Loyal love”; “fFithful love”, etc. The most famous use of khesed is in our text - Exodus 34:6.
For us to remember the character of God’s Love:
L- oyal (it never quits, it is unchanging)
Psalm 118 MSG
1-4 Thank God because he’s good,
because his love never quits.
Tell the world, Israel,
“His love never quits.”
And you, clan of Aaron, tell the world,
“His love never quits.”
And you who fear God, join in,
“His love never quits.”
Khesed is a kind of love you can depend on. When we long for love, what we are really longing for is khesed. Affection can come and go, and it doesn’t satisfy our innate need to be loved without condition. What we really want is a loyal affection not driven by strict or begrudging obligation but by deep compassion.
As much as God is the source and the fullness of khesed, we can still see this communicable attribute demonstrated by humans. In the Bible one example of this is Ruth:
Ruth is a foreigner married to an Israelite man. But tragically, her husband dies, along with his brother and his father. All Ruth has left is her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, who has nothing to give her. Naomi tells Ruth she should go back to her people. But instead, Ruth promises to stay by Naomi’s side and take care of her. And as other people watch Ruth keep this promise over time, they call it an act of khesed.
O - overwrites failures
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
- Psalm 103
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. - 1 Peter 4:8
Perhaps the most noatble example of a recipient of this characteristic of love was Jacob - a supplanter, liar, deceiver and least likely to have been lined up in the hall of faith. But God had favoured Him and in the end he said this:
I am unworthy of all the khesed and of all the faithfulness which you have shown to your servant. -Genesis 32:10
Q3: In what way can you relate to Jacob in your experience of God's unconditional Love?
God also demonstrated this sin-blotting kind of love to the nation of Israel. Israel’s unfaithfulness and rebellion was relentless, butso is God's plan and His stubborn love.
In your khesed you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
- Exodus 15:10
Please forgive the guilt of this people in accordance with the greatness of your khesed, just as you also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
- Numbers 14:19
V - ast (Immeasurable)
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:16-19
E - verlasting
Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” - Jeremiah 31:3
“It is a strange and beautiful eccentricity of the free God, that He has allowed His heart to be emotionally identified with men. Self-sufficient as He is, He wants our love and will not be satisfied till He gets it. Free as He is, He has let His heart be bound to us forever. God’s love is active, drawing us to himself. His love is personal. He doesn’t love humanity in some vague sense, he loves humans. He loves you and me. And his love for us knows no beginning and no end.”
Q4: What should this understanding of God's Love create in us? What should be our response to it?
This Attribute of God which is Love is not something that He possesses. He is full of grace and truth, but He is not full of love, because HE IS LOVE! Without Him there is no love!
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because GOD IS LOVE.” - 1 John 4:7-8
It’s the Hebrew word emet, which can be translated as “faithfulness,” and is equivalent to the word “truth.” It’s related to another word we always use in church, "amen", which is an untranslated Hebrew expression meaning, “that’s truth!”. Emet also has to do with the idea of stability and reliability; e.g. when Moses holds up his hands for hours to defeat Israel’s enemies, the Amalekites. Aaron and Hur put a rock under him and supported his hands so that his hands will remain emet or steady (Exo 17:11-12). When emet is used of a person, it describes a reliable and stable character or trustworthiness.
Q5: Why do. you think faithfulness, truth and trust are related to one another?
GOD IS FAITHFUL, but sometimes this truth is hard to believe in when we find ourselves in very difficult situations. What happens when God doesn’t appear to be faithful or worthy of being trusted?
When the kingdom of Israel collapsed, and the Israelites found themselves in exile with no home and no king, they cried out:
“O God, where is your loyal love that you swore to David in your faithfulness (emet)?”
- Psalms 89:49
They accuse God of abandoning his promises to Abraham and David. So is God trustworthy? Is he faithful after all?
Why do you sleep?
Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face
And forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
Our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us;
Rescue us because of your unfailing khesed."
- Psalm 44:23-26
Q6: In what way can you late to these prayers? Share a time when you have doubted the love and faithfulness of God in your life (if there's any)?
Right now, our own world is in the midst of a global pandemic, and perhaps you have been asking the same thing. Is God trustworthy? Is he faithful?
What does it look like to trust God when your world is turned upside-down by a cancer diagnosis? When someone you love is killed in a car accident? When you lose your job? When your marriage is failing? What does it look like to trust God in the midst of exile or desert seasons of life?
Let's close with these 2 stories in the Bible, one is in the Old Testament and the other in the New Testament - and we will see a parallel lesson consistent on these two stories:
In Exodus 15 (The Song of Moses and Miriam) the sotroy picks up after the Israelites successfully crossed the red sea and they have witnessed the mighty hand of God protect them and delivered them from their enemies. From verses 1-18 is their Song of Victory. Let's pick up from v.19:
19 When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen[e] went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20 Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.”
And then immediately after that:
The Waters of Marah and Elim
22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.[f]) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.
There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
Now let's look at Mark 4:
Jesus Calms a Storm
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Q7: What are the similarities you can see in these stories?
1. God performed miracles prior to the testing and they all saw it.
2. They praised God in the good times and then grumbled and doubted at the hard times.
3. Both were a test of faith.
4. In both instances the characters did not show faith but fear.
5. In both instances God was still faithful to save them.
Q8: Why can we trust that God's Love will never fail and His faithfulness will never end?
“God is not a man, that he should lie”
…in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised.
It is impossible for God to lie.
This is the reason why we wanted to teach on the Attributes of God because the more that we know Him, the more that we trust Him. Maybe, you find it hard to trust God and maybe the reason behind that is that all your life you’ve always been disappointed, lied at, betrayed of trust. Parents did not live up to their promise. Wife or husband was unfaithful, forsaken by a friend.. and it made you decide to trust no one but yourself - but even yourself, you cannot trust. God wants you to put your faith in Him. He is trustworthy because He has never and will never lie to you.
His Love and Faithfulness should drive out our fear. But the reality is we still choose each day whether we will be Fearful or Faithful. We can be flooded with fear or we can be full of faith, but we cannot be both. As much as you can be flooded with fear - you can also choose to experience God flooding you with faith if you will allow Him.
Hebrews 11 is the Hall of Faith not because these people were strong in themselves They were called to be men and women of faith because they believed and trusted in God’s love and faithfulness.
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.
Based on this verse we can define FAITH as judging God faithful. And in reverse, we can define FEAR as judging God unfaithful. We judge God every day of our lives. And our judgment of God influences oour actions, emotions, decisions, etc. And what influences your judgment is what you allow or entertain or magnify in your mind. But thank God, that even in our faithlessness, He remains faithful. It's just that we miss the rewards and miracles of faithfulness whenever we succumb to fear.
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” - 2 Timothy 2:13
If we want to fill our tank with faith; it comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. And there are 2 Words from God that you always need to remember: 1. The First Word (e.g. Mk 4:35 “Let us Cross Over to the Other Side”)
- this is His Word to you when He called you and commanded you to follow Him. At the start of every godly mission or endeavour, God gives His Word, not just of instructions, but of His Promise. Recall the stories of Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, etc.
2. The Fresh Word - (e.g. Mk 4:39“Peace, be still!”)
- This is and has to be an ongoing, continuously flowing communication between you and God whilst in the journey. In every season and in every stop, God speaks and we should listen. This is a lifestyle of listening and seeking His voice through His Word.
Q9: What has been God's 'First Word' to you? What is the most recent "Fresh Word" of the Lord for you?
From the very beginning of this ministry… The task was beyond us… Beyond what we can do... In every year, as we expand, the greater the responsibility.. I't always been beyond what we can do. Last year, at the onset of the pandemic, all the more... This year, It’s beyond us… beyond us… but it's never been nor will it ever be beyond God!
He is always faithful, and He won’t stop now! Let's continue to rely on Him!