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What lasts forever? God’s faithful love

January 8, 2024
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Daily Scripture

Exodus 34:5-7, Psalm 136:1-9

Exodus 34
5 The LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him, and proclaimed the name, “The LORD.” 6 The LORD passed in front of him and proclaimed:
    “The LORD! The LORD!
    a God who is compassionate and merciful,
        very patient,
        full of great loyalty and faithfulness,
7         showing great loyalty to a thousand generations,
        forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion,
        yet by no means clearing the guilty,
        punishing for their parents’ sins
        their children and their grandchildren,
        as well as the third and the fourth generation.”
8 At once Moses bowed to the ground and worshipped.

Psalm 136
1 Give thanks to the LORD because he is good.
    God’s faithful love lasts forever!
2 Give thanks to the God of all gods—
    God’s faithful love lasts forever.
3 Give thanks to the LORD of all LORDs—
    God’s faithful love lasts forever.
4 Give thanks to the only one
   who makes great wonders—
    God’s faithful love lasts forever.
5 Give thanks to the one who made the skies with skill—
    God’s faithful love lasts forever.
6 Give thanks to the one who shaped the earth on the water—
    God’s faithful love lasts forever.
7 Give thanks to the one who made the great lights—
    God’s faithful love lasts forever.
8 The sun to rule the day—
    God’s faithful love lasts forever.
9 The moon and the stars to rule the night—
    God’s faithful love lasts forever!

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Today’s reading samples the first nine verses from the longer Hebrew poem we call Psalm 136. All 26 stanzas of the poem or hymn ended with the line “God’s faithful love (Hebrew hesed) lasts forever.” Hesed is “one of the most important words in the Old Testament… a Hebrew word translated as ‘faithful love’…. the word occurs twice in God’s self-revelation to Moses (rendered ‘loyalty’ in Exodus 34:6-7). It’s a one-word summary of God’s character.” *

  • Exodus 34’s definition of God’s character as hesed was central for the Israelite people. “The revelation of these divine characteristics to Moses was so significant that this passage is echoed on six other occasions in the Old Testament (Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).” ** It’s likely that people used Psalm 136 in worship, with the refrain about hesed repeated by listeners. What has helped you grasp that “faithful love” is central to who God is?
  • The Exodus version of the second commandment (cf. Exodus 20:4-6) listed God’s main characteristics. But scholar Dennis T. Olson noted that Exodus 34 made it stronger: “It is an intentional adaptation of an earlier list of God’s qualities…. In Exodus 34:6-7… the loyalty and graciousness of God are moved up to first place and greatly expanded.” *** What makes it crucial that God’s faithful love is central, not peripheral or incidental, in our picture of God?
Prayer

Lord God, in wonder, love and praise I thank you that everything you do in my life springs from your unchanging, ever faithful love. Amen.

GPS Insights

Karra Karst

Karra Karst

Karra Karst serves as a Mission Engagement Specialist at Resurrection Leawood. When not at work, you can find her adventuring with her husband, Stephen, and dog, Rosey. She enjoys a good joke as much as she does her daily iced latte.

This Exodus passage shows us a portrait of God that’s all about patience, forgiveness, and overflowing love. Even when we mess up, regardless of scale, God doesn’t give up on us. Instead, there’s this incredible patience and love that helps us get back on track. It’s a reminder that we are not bound by our mistakes, but through His love, it helps us learn and grow from them. 

Psalm 136 is almost like a celebration song, like the best wedding reception song that makes everyone head out to the dance floor. After each line, it repeats, “His love endures forever.” It’s like saying that the love behind everything we see and experience is a constant, unwavering force. That kind of love is there in the grand moments and the tiny, everyday ones. The ones where someone buys your coffee in the drive thru or you come home to find your spouse starting the dishwasher (I personally love this). It’s also when someone sits with you in very dark moments or when your community shows up with meals after you return home from the hospital.

So, what does this mean for us? It’s a reminder that we’re surrounded by this immense, unchanging love. Even when everything feels chaotic or uncertain, that love is a steady rock we can lean on. It’s also a challenge–to reflect that love in our own lives. Being patient, forgiving, and spreading kindness, even when it’s not easy, echoes the love we learn about in these verses.

In a world where things can get pretty intense, these verses are like a beacon of hope. They encourage us to recognize our flaws, learn from them, and shower others with the same understanding and kindness. They remind us that amidst all the chaos, there’s an unshakeable Love that holds us close. 

I welcome you to reflect on the moments you have felt this kind of love from someone and ask yourself what you can do this week to offer that to someone else. I’d love to hear what you choose to do and how it impacted you. 

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* J. Clinton McCann, Jr., sidebar note “God’s Faithful Love” in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 845 OT.
** T. Desmond Alexander, comment on Exodus 34:5-7 in The New Bible Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994, p. 118.
*** Dennis T. Olson, study note on Exodus 34:6-7 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 144 OT.