April 22, 2020 by Tim O’Connor
“Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!”
Psalm 107 opens with a call to give thanks to the LORD for his steadfast love, extended to “the redeemed of the LORD” from all directions of the earth. It is followed by four similar stanzas.
Each begins with a description of people who, in various ways, embarked on foolish and sinful paths and found themselves in the proverbial ditch. “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them…Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!”
Taken together, the Psalms take us in all directions of the spiritual life: joy, sadness, triumph, despair, love, hate, faith, and doubt. This psalm takes us to the central twin truths of the entire Bible: we all of us are prone to folly, which naturally leads to our own destruction; but God is unwaveringly set in love on delivering us, provided only that we cry out to him. Love and faithfulness characterize everything God does in relation to us. It is hard for us to fully and consistently understand this, since we encounter nothing quite like it in any other relationship. Even the most loving human people we know have their limits. With severely wayward people, the patience of the most loving people will wear thin, and they may at last turn away and move on. Even though we may not be that ‘hell-bent’ person, we are always conscious that another’s love has limits and conditions, at least some of the time – for, whatever their intentions to obey Christ’s call to forgive seventy times seven times, they are no less subject to failure than we are. So, each time we disappoint another we love, somewhere in the back of our minds is the anxious thought that their love will grow colder.
Human love is our starting point for understanding God’s love, just as we start with our understanding of human knowers when contemplating the primordial, limitless knowledge of God. But even the best of human love is a weak resemblance to the love of God, just as our partial, biased, and always fallible knowledge is but a shadow of the total, pure, and certain knowledge of God. It is vitally important that we ‘kick the ladder away,’ and learn of God’s love for us in Christ directly from him. Meditate regularly on one or another of the many passages in God’s Word when he declares the character of his love for you. Ask him to make this extraordinary, singular reality something that penetrates your frailty, for “he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (v.9) In accordance with his perfect providence – his ordering of all things together – it may take some time. Be patient. Moments of grateful realization will begin to open up, like majestic mountain sights peeking out on a densely tree-lined ascent. Eventually, the trees will be left behind, and you will come to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph 3:18).