“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6 NIV).
God’s love is forever. As the flock of God, all our days are to be spent rejoicing beneath the sweet sunshine of His love. Our burdens, weaknesses and all earthly cares may be cast upon the strong shoulders of our Shepherd, who has promised to sustain us even to ‘our old age and gray hairs’.
What is the essence of our Shepherd’s love for us – is it His loving kindness, constancy, faithfulness, mercy, goodness, graciousness, all these things combined or so much more? We will always struggle, as indeed the various translations prove, to capture the depths of meaning contained in the Biblical languages to describe it. The reason is that too many colours in the rainbow of God’s love are invisible to human eyes; but as our visual sensitivity grows to embrace more shades of the divine spectrum, our lives are correspondingly enriched.
“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1 ISV). If a Christian truly understands God’s love, his or her life will be amazingly transformed. One of the thieves crucified with Christ caught sight of this love in his very last hour, and what a difference that produced. From the place of being condemned for his sins – first by men and then in eternity – he was saved and assigned a place in paradise with Christ. If we could understand just three aspects of God’s love – its steadfastness, limitlessness and sacrificial nature, our lives would never be the same. Let us briefly meditate on these three overlapping qualities.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1 ESV). The steadfastness of God’s love is a fortress of strength for His people. He does not stop loving us on days when our hearts are cold, when we struggle against the flesh or when our faith is weak. His love remains with us on our good days and on our bad days; whether life seems happy or sad or cruel or mundane. How empty and powerless our lives would be, if His love were withdrawn from us in the midst of our trials or each time we stumbled. We may not see His love clearly on the days when clouds gather on our horizon blurring the view of the heavens beyond; but it is there, all the same. Like the sun, it is sure to rise just when darkness overwhelms.
“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (1 Chronicles 16:34). Of this there can be no doubt- His love is without limit. “What can separate us from God’s love?” Paul posed this question to the Romans, and the answer was and is: Nothing. Sometimes we Christians act as if the love of God cannot always be be relied on, as if His stores will run low. Thankfully, it is supplied on the basis of our needs, and not according to how faithful we have been. In the midst of great suffering God has promised to be with us (Romans 8:35); but the time when we need God’s love most is when we have sinned. And can sin separate us from the love of God? Sin can indeed separate us from His presence, but not from His love, and even this separation is temporary. As soon as we confess our sin and repent, the comfort of His presence is restored.
Consider the sacrificial aspect of God’s love. Christ, our Good Shepherd laid down His life for us. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English provides a particularly vivid description of His love in action – 1. “I AM THE LIVING GOD, The Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his flock” (John 10:11); 2. “…I lay down my life for the flock’s sake (John 10:15)” and 3. “There is no greater love than this: that a person would lay down his life for the sake of his friends (John 15:13)”. Romans 8 explains the impact of Christ’s sacrificial love working out in a Christian’s life. On account of His sacrifice, 1. we are no longer under condemnation for our sinfulness (v 1); 2. everything – even the most adverse of circumstances – will work out for our good (v 28), 3. nothing will separate us from God’s love (v 35 and 39)), and 4. we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (v 37).
Even before the Messiah came and demonstrated the extent of God’s love, the people of God had caught glimmers of it and were filled with joyful thanksgiving.“Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” This refrain was the the battle anthem of Israel when surrounded by their enemies. When Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, found himself besieged by the armies of three nations more powerful than his, he sent his temple choir ahead of the army, to form a shield of triumphant praises as they sang this song. When the army took up their position on the battlefield, they found that their enemies had destroyed each other, and all that remained for them to do was to collect the plunder.
At the the dedication of the Great Temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem, the Israelites had an awesome encounter with God. After the sacrifices had been offered, and the trumpeters and singers had gathered to declare the praises of God, ‘all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glorious presence of the LORD filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying, “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!”‘ (2 Chronicles 7:3 NLT). It was the love of God, rather than the glory and majesty that surrounds God’s presence, which overwhelmed His people on that day. And so will it be for us on the day of Christ’s triumphant return.
“All glory to Him who loves us…” When John the Beloved Apostle saw visions of the end times at Patmos, he realised that over and above all the terrors that will come upon this earth, the cruelty of man, the growth of sin and war in the heavenly realms, reigns the Lord who loves us – “All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us” (Revelations 1:5 NLT).
So this marvellous, self-giving, and unlimited love will be with us all the days of our lives, and into eternity. We were pre-destined to enjoy it. Just as Christ “was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20 ESV) to be the Lamb of God, both slain and the triumphant, so were our names enlisted in the Lamb’s book of life, and we were included in the great love and the great purposes of God. It is God’s will that we spent the rest of our lives both now and in eternity discovering the infinite depths of His love. Like gold-hunters, every time we discover a new goldmine of God’s love, our lives will begin to display its riches, and draw others to its Source.
Thank you, Father for loving us. Your love never changes even when we have been unfaithful. We give all glory to the Lamb who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us.