Our God Is Faithful

By James L. Morrisson
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"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning.
Great is thy faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 RSV)


DEFINITIONS

The dictionary defines "faithful" as "true or trustworthy in the performance of duty, the fulfillment of promises or obligations, etc; constant", and as "worthy of belief or confidence". In the Old Testament, 'emunah, Strong's # 530, means firmness, security, steadiness. "The word has as its key idea faithfulness or certainty. (Spiros Zodhiates (ed.), "Key Word Study Bible", AMG International, 1991, p. 1599.) Vine's defines it as "faithfulness, stability" and says it "exhibits God's character as worthy of the love and confidence of man and assures us that He will certainly fulfill His promises as well as execute His threats against sin." Another important word in this connection is chesed, Strong's # 2617. Literally it means "kindness" or "mercy", but it is often used in the sense of "steadfast love", "unfailing love", and thus has a strong connotation of faithfulness.

In the New Testament, pistis Strong' #4102, means both faith and faithfulness. It means to believe, and to be worthy of belief. Since the belief to which we are called is a total commitment of the whole self, it follows that God's faithfulness means that he is worthy of receiving our total commitment. When we say God is faithful, we mean that we can trust him, rely on him, depend on him totally and without reservation. He will do what he says. He is constant and does not change.

 

GOD DOES NOT CHANGE

"I the Lord do not change." (Malachi 3:6).

Moses prayed, "Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God" (Psalm 90:1-2). He is God "from everlasting to everlasting" (Nehemiah 9:5; see also Psalms 41:13, 106:48, 144:13; Isaiah 40:28; Jeremiah 10:10; Daniel 4:3, 6:26). He sits "enthroned forever" (Psalm 102:12). "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and your dominion endures through all generations" (Psalm 145:13; see Lamentations 5:19). (Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures are from the New International Version and any emphasis has been added.)

God is "I am" (Exodus 3:14). He always is. He is before the physical universe was created, he is now, and he is after heaven and earth will have passed away (see Matthew 24:35). He "inhabits eternity" (Isaiah 57:15 NKJV). "I am the Alpha and the Omega... who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty" (Revelation 1:8). He is the "everlasting Father" (Isaiah 9:6).

God's character does not change. "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6). With him "there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17 KJV). Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

God's truth does not change. "The word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35).

God's purposes do not change. "The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations" (Psalm 33:11). God "wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised" (Hebrews 6:17).

The Psalmist wrote, "In the beginning you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same and your years will never end" (Psalm 102:25-27).

I find this tremendously reassuring. In a world which is uncertain, and constantly changing, God does not change. He remains the same. In a quicksand, there is one solid rock on which we can stand and to which we can hold. That rock will always be there and it will always be solid.

Scripture often speaks of God as a rock. He is "the Rock eternal" in whom we can trust (Isaiah 26:4). "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge" (Psalm 18:2; see also Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 19:14; 61:2, 92:15; Isaiah 51:1). Psalm 40:2 says "[God] lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." This describes exactly how my wife and I felt when God took us out of an occult, New Age organization and set our feet on the truth of his word. When all around you is shifting sand, God is the one solid place, and he endures forever. What a blessing!

Jesus told a parable about two men, one of whom put Jesus' words into practice while the other did not. The one who did not put Jesus' words into practice was like a man who built his house on sand. When the rains came, and the streams rose, and the winds blew, that house "fell with a great crash." The one who did follow Jesus' words was like a man who built his house upon a rock. The rains came and the streams rose and the wind blew, but the house "did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock" (Matthew 7:24-27; see also 1 Corinthians 3:11, 10:4; and 2 Timothy 2:19).

Because God is eternal and does not change, we can build our lives on him and have a sure foundation. The circumstances of our life, human institutions and philosophies, and even the physical universe, are impermanent. If we base our life on them we are not secure. Only God and his truth are eternal and sure. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18; see also Colossians 3:1-2; Hebrews 12:2).

God is all-powerful. He is "the Almighty" (Revelation 1:8). He created the physical universe and keeps it functioning. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth... For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm" (Psalm 33:6,9; see Psalm 148:5-6). He sustains "all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3; see Colossians 1:17).

"I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27; see Genesis 18:14). Job said, "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2). "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37)). "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26; see Mark 9:23). God declares "Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand" (Isaiah 14:24; see also Isaiah 46:10). "My word, that goes out from my mouth... will accomplish what I desire" (Isaiah 55:11). No problem or difficulty that we face is too big or too small for God to deal with (see Numbers 11:23; Isaiah 50:2).

God is always there. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging" (Psalm 46:1-3). Jesus told his disciples, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). "God has said, ' Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5).

I believe one of the meanings of God's name, "I Am" is that he is always there, and he always has what we need. Indeed, one of the names for God is Jehovah-Shammah, the God who is there (Ezekiel 48:35).

God is there even in our most difficult times. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4). "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you" (Isaiah 43:2). God is our ever-present help in trouble. When we are in trouble, he is there to help us. A beautiful example of this is found in Daniel chapter 3. The three Hebrew youths were thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's golden image. The King looked into the flames and said , "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Daniel 3:25 KVJ). God did not keep them from the fire, but his Son was with them and protected them from harm. The Book of Lamentations was written at one of the lowest points in the history of the people of Israel. The ten northern tribes had been conquered by the Assyrians and scattered throughout the Assyrian empire; and now Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon and many of its people taken into captivity in Babylon. Much of the book is weeping over what had happened, but in the midst of his weeping the prophet could affirm that "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23 RSV).

Paul suffered many hardships (see 2 Corinthians chapter 11). Yet he could say, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11). He could say "Be joyful always,... give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16,18). From a Roman prison, while awaiting trial for his life, he wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4). I believe he could say, and mean, these things because he was so convinced that God was with him no matter what might happen, that God is bigger than any problem he faced, and that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). His confidence was in the unchanging God and not in the changing circumstances.

 

GOD'S LOVE DOES NOT CHANGE

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 100:5).

"God is love" (1 John 4:16). He is "abounding in love and faithfulness" (Psalm 86:15). On Mt. Sinai he passed in front of Moses and declared that he is "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" (Exodus 34:6).

God's love is universal. He is "loving toward all he has made" (Psalm 145:13). "He so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" that we could be saved and have eternal life (John 3:16). He does not want "anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). He "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). His promise to Abraham was that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3).

God shows his love especially to those who are his people. He chose the nation of Israel to be his special people, "because the Lord loved you" (Deuteronomy 7:8), "because you are precious and honored in my sight and because I love you" (Isaiah 43:4). "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness" (Jeremiah 31:3).

Scripture says over and over that God's love for his people never fails, his love is unfailing. "O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption" (Psalm 130:7). "The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love" (Psalm 147:11). "'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you" (Isaiah 54:10; see also Exodus 15:13; Psalms 6:4, 13:5, 32:10, 33:5, 18, 36:7, 48:9; 51:1, 90:14, 107:8, 15, 21, 119:41, 76, 143:8). "From everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him" (Psalm 103:17).

The Psalmist sang, "I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself" (Psalm 89:1-2).

When great events occurred in the life of the nation of Israel, they cried out, "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever" This was David's psalm of praise after the ark of the covenant was brought back to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 16:34) It was the people's cry when Solomon dedicated the Temple (2 Chronicles 5:13, 7:3,6), just before God gave King Jehoshaphat a great victory over superior forces (2 Chronicles 20:21), and when the Temple was rebuilt under Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:11). See also Psalms 100:5, 107:1, 117:2). After every verse of Psalm 118 there is the refrain, "His love endures forever."

With the coming of Jesus Christ the primary object of God's love became all those who accept and believe in his Son Jesus Christ. As Paul put it, Gentile believers have been "grafted in" to the promises God made to the people of Israel (Romans 11:17-21; see Romans chapters 9-11; Ephesians 2:11-22). The coming to earth of Jesus Christ was an astonishing act of love by both the Father and the Son. "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" (John 3:16). "God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10). It is because of this extraordinary sacrifice that God made for us that we "know and rely on the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16).

God is the Father of those who accept and follow his Son (John 1:12). "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1). God's Father love for us far exceeds that of any human parent. Scripture expresses this thought in beautiful ways. "Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones... Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:13-15). "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:9-11).

It is very difficult for us to "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:18-19). Because of his extraordinary love for us, Jesus Christ (who helped create the universe and who sustains it with his powerful word) became a helpless baby. He who knew no sin, and could not stand to look on evil (Habakkuk 1:13), lived for 33 years in the midst of sin and evil. For our sake, he gave up the glory of heaven and came down to earth. For our sake he who was and is God "made himself nothing" (Philippians 2:7). For our sake he endured the torment and shame of the mocking, the flogging and the cross. For our sake he took on the burden of all the sins of mankind, and felt, for a time, that his Father had forsaken him. For our sake the Father watched as his beloved Son suffered and died. Love such as this goes so far beyond anything we have experienced on earth that it is hard to grasp.

This love of God "endures forever" (Psalm 118). God's promise is that "whoever believes in" Jesus shall have eternal life. As Peter said of a related promise, "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:39). "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases."

This is all quite extraordinary. So far as I am aware, there is no other religion which asserts that its god loves men. Certainly there is none in which god's love has been demonstrated in such a powerful and compelling way. When people of other religions accept Christianity one of the things that strikes them most is the fact that the true God is a God of love. They say, "I had never heard of a God who loves his people." We must never lose sight of how amazing it is that a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, pure and holy can love people who are none of these things.

 

GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES

"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Numbers 23:19).

God is a God of covenant. Although he is sovereign and all-powerful, he commits himself to his people in an "everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:7, 19; see also Genesis 9:16; 1 Chronicles 16:17; Psalms 89:28, 34, 105:8). While the covenant has taken various forms, its essence is, "If you will be my people, I will be your God". From that commitment to be our God flow various other consequences: he will love us, cherish us, guide us, protect us, provide for us, etc. As long as we are willing to be his people and obey his commands, he commits himself forever to be our God, with all that that implies. His love for us is unfailing because it rests on a covenant commitment. "He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands" (Deuteronomy 7:9). God's lovingkindness, his chesed, derives in part from his covenant commitment to his people. (See Harris, Archer and Waltke, "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament", Moody Bible Institute, 1981, vol. 2, pp. 305-307.)

Jesus has become the mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 8:6, 8, 9:15; see also Matthew 26:28), in which the love of God is even more strongly expressed. In it God continues to commit himself to be our God if we will be his people.

God is truth (John 14:6, 17:17; Romans 1:25). Truth is part of his essential nature. He does not lie, or deceive, or play tricks on us. God does not lie (1 Samuel 15:29; Numbers 23:19). "It is impossible for God to lie" (Hebrews 6:18; see Titus 1:2). His "words are trustworthy" (2 Samuel 7:28; see Psalms 19:7, 119:86, 138). Hence we can be sure that "The Lord is faithful to all his promises" (Psalm 145:13). "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:20). When the Temple was dedicated Solomon declared, "Not one word has failed of all the good promises [God] gave through his servant Moses" (1 Kings 8:56).

God has given us "everything we need for life and godliness". By his "very great and precious promises" he has made it possible for us to "participate in the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:3-4). I shall not try, in this paper, to collect all the promises that God has given to those who believe in his Son, Jesus Christ. They are many, and "very great and precious." My purpose is simply to show that, if we live up to the conditions he has expressed or implied, God is faithful to keep his promises. We can count on him. We may fail him, but if we remain true, he will not fail us.

What this means is that God is for us. He wants all men to be saved. He wants us to come near to him so that he can come near to us (James 4:8). He wants "to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20). He wants to have his Holy Spirit reside in us, to empower us, strengthen us, encourage us, cleanse, guide us and teach us. He wants us to be "transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18). His Son Jesus is constantly interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25; see Romans 8:26-27). God is not merely faithful to the commitments he has made; he is rooting for us.

Perhaps I can best summarize all that I have been trying to say, and bring this to a close, with the marvelous words of Paul,

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:31-39).

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Copyrightę 2002 by James L. Morrisson
  

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     08/19/2007