God’s Steadfast Love
By Jonathan C. Brentner
Through all the ups and downs of my life, these words from Lamentations 3:22-25 have remained dear to my heart, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. . . . The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”
The Hebrew word for “steadfast love” is chesed. You might see it translated “lovingkindness” or just “kindness” in other versions. It’s difficult for one English word or phrase to capture its total meaning in the original. In Scripture, chesed is used almost exclusively for the Lord’s enduring covenant relationship with His people and His never-ending faithfulness and unfailing love for all who belong to Him.
The promises and blessings of Lamentations 3:22-25 belong to those within this special connection to the Lord. In Jeremiah’s day it was Israel. Today, it applies to all those in Christ by virtue of the new covenant.
God’s Covenant Love for Israel
Jeremiah wrote Lamentations in the midst of great sorrow for his people, the Israelites. Because of her idolatry, the Babylonians had just defeated Judah, broken down the walls of Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and taken many of the people into captivity in Babylon.
The first line of Lamentations 3:22 can be literally translated as, “Because of the steadfast love of the Lord, we are not consumed.” I like this wording better because it captures the essence of God’s “chesed” commitment to His people despite their waywardness at the time.
Even though Israel had rebelled and experienced God’s wrath, He would nonetheless remain faithful to His promises regarding His people. Yes, He would chastise them for their idolatry, but because of His longstanding covenants with their ancestors, he would never cut them off as a nation or as a people.
The essence of chesed is a permanent and lasting covenant that depends on God’s faithfulness, not that of His people (read Psalm 105:8-11). The Lord never lets go; in this case it’s His relationship with a race or nation. This does not imply that every descendant of Jacob would inherit eternal life, but that God would not forget His promise to the nation.
God’s Covenant Love for Us
As saints saved by the blood of Jesus, we also have a covenant relationship with God. Hebrews 9:14-15 says that Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”
As such, we also fall under the umbrella of chesed, God’s steadfast covenant love. In our case, it’s with individuals who make up the church, not with a nation or particular race of people. For those of us in Christ, our current blessings are spiritual (see list in Eph. 1:3-14) rather than physical.
Just as with Israel, God will never let us go. Ephesians 1:13-14 says we “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.’ Although our blessings are “spiritual” at the moment, someday they will be physical and tangible as enjoy forever in resurrected and immortal bodies.
Until then, Lamentations gives us assurance for each day for God’s “mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22-23). Each morning, we awake to new mercies for the day knowing His faithfulness will never disappoint us or come to an end.
God’s love for us means He will never let go of us, not now or at any point in eternity (Rom. 5:10).
I love this quote from JI Packer in his book, Knowing God:
There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. . . . There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me to realise this purpose.
Our behavior never surprises God or deters His purpose to bless us. It may at times bring seasons of discipline for us during which time the Holy Spirit will work in our hearts to bring us back to Him. However, He will never cast off those who are truly His; this is what chesed means for us.