God’s Saving Love and a Loving Response

My mother told me when I was in my late twenties and again when I was in my fifties that she looked forward to conversing with me because she always learned something new. She admired that I loved to read and research, to learn and to explore. That, too, is probably the trait I like most about myself. I love to learn. Reading, travel, and diverse work experiences have contributed to my learning more through the years. I also have tried to pay attention to trends in both popular and Christian worship music while expanding my knowledge of older music offerings.

My love for learning helps me to appreciate the quest that the writer of Psalm 119 pursued to learn more God’s will and specifically how it is revealed through his Torah (law, commands, or instruction, but actually eight synonyms are used throughout the longest Psalm). Psalm 119 consists of 22 eight verse sections, each section featuring the next letter of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet with each verse within the section beginning with the appropriate letter for that section. The eight verses in the sixth section begin with the letter waw. That feature does not carry over into English translations, except that most versions of the Bible indicate before each section of this Psalm what letter is featured in that section. Each section also functions independently of the whole as a psalm, a poem, and a prayer that contributes to overall theme of Psalm 119. The sixth section begins by entreating the Lord to keep his promise and love the person who is praying:

“May your unfailing love come to me, LORD, your salvation, according to your promise;” (Psalm 119:41)

Salvation is rooted in God’s love. While most Christians probably think first of John 3:16 when asked about a Bible verse that connects God’s love for humanity with salvation, numerous verses in the Hebrew Bible (what we call the Old Testament) make the same connection. In some of those, God speaks about his love through a prophet. Here, a psalmist who is praying makes the same case: People can be saved because God loves them.

Why does he want the benefits of God’s saving love? He wants to be able to answer those who taunt him because of his faith. He seeks freedom from shame. He wants his hope to be realized.

God’s love for him is mirrored for the Psalmist in his love for God’s word, the Lord’s commands. He trusts in God’s word (v 42). He hopes in God’s laws (v 43). He obeys God’s law and seeks out his precepts.

The psalmist’s prayer reaches a crescendo as he concludes. He affirms his love for God’s statutes. He declares how he act as he responds to God’s saving love:

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them. I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees” (Psalm 119:45-48).

Salvation is not found in a sterile, purely logical belief and obedience. The coherence of God’s pursuing, rescuing love with humanity’s obedient, faithful, searching, struggling love results in the accomplishment of harmony in God’s creation as people live as God planned when he created our world. This coherence testifies to the reality of reconciliation with fulfilling God’s will. The psalmist, like me, yearns to learn. He sings this prayer as a member of God’s covenant people because he wants to meditate on God’s word so that he may deepen his love and be more effective in proclaiming the glory of our God. May we too pray for evidence of God’s love in our lives as we devote ourselves to living out God’s creative purpose for our lives.

• Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version, 2011.

About Michael Summers

Michael Waymon Summers has preached in twenty-seven of the United States as well as seven other countries. Michael earned a Master of Theology degree. He also has done graduate work in international studies. Michael likes to run, loves to sing, and reads voraciously.
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