Theme: God’s Enduring Love
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the need to praise the Lord for his enduring love and faithfulness toward us.
Scripture: Psalm 117:1, 2
In yesterday’s study we noted that the gospel was to be extended to the Gentiles. The second thing we need to notice about Psalm 117 is that the reason the Gentiles (along with Jews) are called upon to praise God is God’s love, for it is a love that “endures forever” (v. 2).
This verse is based upon the favorite text of the post-exilic Jewish community, namely, Exodus 34:6, which is picked up as early as David’s great psalm of praise on the occasion of his bringing the Ark of God to Jerusalem (in 1 Chron. 16:34), and is repeated at length in the very next psalm (in vv. 1-4, 29). Exodus 34:6 says, “And he [that is, God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” It would be false to say that teaching about God’s love is absent from the earlier psalms, but it is nevertheless true that it is emphasized repeatedly as we come to the end of the Psalter, probably because it was the attribute of God that was uppermost in the minds of the chastened remnant as they returned to Israel from their seventy-year-long Babylonian captivity.
Yet if the Jews who returned from Babylon were aware of the greatness of the love of God, how much more should we be aware of it—we who have come to know it through the atoning death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ!
I think here of John 3:16, undoubtedly the best loved, most memorized and often quoted verse in the entire Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That alone is the full measure of the greatness of God’s love.
This was the verse by which D. L. Moody, the evangelist, learned the greatness of the love of God. Moody traveled to England early in his ministry and met a young English preacher named Henry Moorhouse. One day Moorhouse told Moody, “I’m thinking of going to America.”
Moody said, “Well, if you should ever get to Chicago, come to my church and I’ll give you a chance to preach.”
Moody was only being polite when he said this, because at this point he had not heard Moorhouse preach. But he put the matter out of his mind. Sometime later, after Moody returned to America he received a telegram that said, “Have arrived in New York. Will be in Chicago Sunday.” Moody didn’t know what to do, especially since he was to be away that weekend. Finally he told the leaders of the church, “I think we should let him preach once. If the people enjoy him, let him preach again.”
Moody was gone for a week following that Sunday, and when he got back he asked his wife, “How did the young preacher do?”
“He’s a better preacher than you are,” she said. “He’s telling sinners that God loves them.”
“That’s not right,” Moody replied. “God doesn’t love sinners.” He had not yet learned very much about the love of God.
“Well, go and hear him.”
“What?” said Moody. “Do you mean to tell me he is still here, that he is still preaching?”
“Yes, he has been preaching all week, with one verse for a text. It is John 3:16.”
Moody went to the meeting. Moorhouse began by saying, “I have been hunting for a text all day, and I have not been able to find a better one than John 3:16. So I think I will just talk about it once more.” He began to preach, and afterward Moody testified that it was on that night that he received his first clear understanding of the gospel of grace and the greatness of God’s love.
One other thing. Not only is the love of God great. It is also true that there is nothing greater in all the world than God’s love. I think here of the well-known and often told story of Karl Barth, the great Swiss theologian. He was an old man at the time, and he was in this country for a series of lectures. At a discussion period following one of his addresses an American asked a typically American question: “Dr. Barth, what is the greatest thought that has ever gone through your mind?” Barth paused for a long time as he obviously thought about his answer. Then he raised his head and said with great simplicity,
“Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so.”
That is profoundly true, and God’s people in all ages have acknowledged it. There is no greater truth than that God has loved us in Jesus Christ and that his love “endures forever.”
What do we learn of God’s love in this psalm?
Why is it important that God’s love endures?
Reflection: On a daily basis, how aware are you of the greatness of the love of God?
Application: How does God express his love in Exodus 34:6? How has God exhibited his attributes in your life?