Title: A GOD WHO IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL
Text: Psalm 117, 118, 136
“The faithfulness of God is from everlasting to everlasting.” You and I can agree to that and say, “Amen” but appreciation of this phrase magnifies when you look at the original meaning of the phrase. Its roots are found when we study the word faithfulness, Hesed in Hebrew. It literally means covenant keeping.
Our God is a covenant keeping God. His dealing with mankind is all about covenant keeping. A covenant is a treaty or alliance between two parties of equal or unequal authority. Each of the covenant parties had special conditions affecting the power in authority and the one imposing demands on the other. Covenants were initiated with the cutting of the knife (of an animal and the shedding of their blood). Breaking covenant conditions meant treason and resulted in punishment by death (as seen in the death of the animal when the covenant was struck). Thus the elements of a covenant are parties, terms and promises; and often there were “signs” associated with the covenant.
The first covenant in the Bible was between God and Noah. God promised he would never flood the earth again. The rainbow stands eternally as a sign of God’s promise.
The second covenant was made with Abraham. God promised children to Abraham, and to give the land of promise to Abraham and his offspring. God promised to protect Abraham from his enemies. Abraham and his offspring were to faithfully follow God and keep covenant. Circumcision of the males was the sign of the covenant. If they broke covenant, they had to renew covenant through the sacrifice of an animal. In other words, instead of them being put to death, an innocent lamb had to be put to death in their place. Such an animal sacrifice was the kind provision of God, for He could choose to put to death the covenant breaker rather than allow them to renew covenant. This is seen in God’s frequent destruction of ultra rebellious groups of Israel when they rebelled in the Wilderness in their transit from Egypt to the Promised Land. But God’s faithfulness in keeping covenant would always come through when He found a penitent heart that came back to Him after they sinned (broke covenant).
Jesus instituted a New Covenant with us (Christians) during the Last Supper, the night before His crucifixion. In the New Covenant there are terms (faithfulness to God) and promises (too many to count in the New Testament; plus the promise of eternal life). The sign of the New Covenant is baptism. Covenant renewal is through confession of our sins and communion (touching the blood once again). Jesus was the Lamb that was slain to initiate the covenant.
Now back to the etymology (history) of the word Hesed. The earliest use of the word means covenant keeping. As time elapsed and Israel saw how God renewed covenant with them again and again after their unfaithfulness (following other gods), the word took on the meaning faithfulness. Next the word came to mean God’s faithfulness is everlasting. Finally, the word became synonymous with lovingkindness. Any time you see the English word lovingkindness in the Scriptures (especially Psalms), you should think of the word covenant keeping. Akin to this, Israel, through the years, testified over and over again that because the Lord’s word is reliable, He is faithful. So integral was God’s faithfulness (covenant keeping) to Israel, that they created songs that incorporated this thought into them so that they could worship God for His faithfulness and lovingkindness and pass the songs on from generation to generation. We are going to look at three of them.
Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26 (Don’t read the passage just yet.)
1. To the Jews, this chapter is “The Great Hallel” (The Great Praise). It was sung at the Passover. The first half of the verse was sung by the priest and the second half was sung by the congregation as an echo of truth of the first half of the verse. (Now read the passage.)
2. Verses 10-22 that we skipped are a recount of the history of God’s lovingkindness (covenant keeping) toward Israel from their captivity in Egypt up to the driving out of the enemies in the Promised Land.
3. Do verses 23 & 24 take on a special meaning now that you understand that lovingkindness actually means God’s faithfulness to keep covenant? How so?
God is faithful. Amen?
God dealings with mankind is rich with history of His faithfulness to woo us back to Himself and renew His love with us…even while we were strangers…even while we were enemies. What a loving God we serve!
I found this simple quote that made me think of God’s unfailing faithfulness towards us.
The mighty oak tree was once a little nut that held its ground.