Thursday, January 6, 2022

How to be Steadfast in an Unstable World

I want to know how King David was able to so confidently declare that, "My heart is steadfast, O God!" (Ps. 108:1). As I read Psalm 108, that declaration comes as a surprise to me, given how David later describes the circumstances. Toward the end of the psalm, David lets us see more of his heart as he asks, "Have you not rejected us, O God? You do not go out, O God, with our armies" (108:11). How could David's heart be steadfast despite the warfare he was in that seemed to be going so badly? Perhaps some of us are facing difficulties that leave us wanting to ask the same question. 

Personally, I don't consider myself all that "steadfast." It doesn't take major warfare to leave me feeling moody, or easily discouraged, or with a quitting attitude when I feel I've failed at something. That's not steadfast. But David knew something vital that helped him to counter such struggles. Immediately after describing his own human heart as "steadfast," David gave thanks to God, saying that "your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds." (Ps. 108:4).

Those words "steadfast love" are an English translation of a Hebrew word for which there is no truly equivalent word in the English language. It's the Hebrew word hesed, which means far more than simply a combination of a collection of words like loving and merciful and kind and compassionate. The definition of hesed must also include words like steadfast and unfailing and faithful and loyal to be accurateIt’s the love of a God who doesn’t give up on us  it's God’s faithful affection for his people  it’s his commitment to covenant – it’s a promise to us that God won't break. It's steadfast love.

So it gets my attention when I see David declaring God's steadfast love in the context of big-time warfare that seemed to be going badly. David was obviously feeling rejected and needing God to "grant us help against the foe" (108:12). But well before he ever mentions that, David makes important choices to give God his proper place. He boldly says that he will give thanks and sing praises to God (108:2-3). Then he declares, "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be all over the earth!" (108:5) And only then does he plead with God for deliverance: "That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer me!" (108:6). All this from a man who felt rejected by God in terrible circumstances!

This was only possible because David was convinced that the God of steadfast love who is exalted above the heavens, is also well above the circumstances David was facing. David made it clear how he knew this by how he made a point of recounting God's promises. He wrote that "God has promised in his holiness..." (108:7) and then listed what God has declared his plans to be for Israel. 

So amidst the feelings of rejection that David finally admits near the very end of the psalm  "Have you not rejected us, O God?" (108:11)  what does David choose to focus on despite having feelings to the contrary? Does he focus on the warfare and the circumstances? Or on God’s promises and unfailing love? David's final statement gives us the answer: "With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes" (108:13).

David's heart remained steadfast because he knew that God's steadfast love for him was greater than all he was facing.

© 2022 Ken Peters

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