But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, ¹⁸to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. ¹⁹The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. —Psalm 103:17-19
As believers, we know from Scripture that we will face many difficulties, hardships, and persecution. During our greatest suffering, we may be tempted to question God’s goodness or sovereignty or both. But even during trials, when we meditate on the everlasting mercy of God, our hearts will be stirred to praise His name. And that is what David does in Psalm 103.
David knew firsthand the awfulness of his own sin and the joyfulness of being forgiven by God (Psalm 32). In Psalm 103, David stirs his heart (and that of the people of Israel) by recounting God’s mercy in justice and forgiveness during the Exodus (vv. 6-10). Our merciful God casts our sin as far as the east is from the west (v. 12). Why? Because of His steadfast love (v. 11).
This promise of God’s steadfast love is found in Exodus 34:6-7, in the context of Israel’s idolatry in the wilderness. In spite of Israel’s sin, God promised His love would endure, and He would forgive their sin. In verses 17-18 of our psalm, David picks up Exodus 34 again. His point? While human life is fragile and temporary (vv.15-16), God’s steadfast love is infinite—“from everlasting to everlasting” (v. 17).
What is meant by steadfast love? In the Hebrew, steadfast love is a single word that may also be translated as “covenant faithfulness.” By declaring that God’s steadfast love is everlasting, David reminds himself that God will always be faithful to the covenant He made with His people—both to judge sin and to forgive sin. That is, He will always be the Lord who keeps His covenant and upholds His commitments to His people. But in these verses, David’s focus is on God’s covenant faithfulness to forgive the sins of those who fear Him (v. 17), keep His covenant, and obey Him (v.18).
But how can God forgive sin when His people proved unable to keep the covenant? That was Israel’s perpetual problem. Israel continued in their idolatry. David’s sons followed suit. Because He is the sovereign Lord, the God who has established His throne in the heavens and rules over all things (v. 19), and because He is the keeper of the covenant, He fulfilled the covenant on behalf of both parties.
God maintained covenant faithfulness (His infinite covenant love) by sending Jesus to take on our humanity. Jesus feared God and kept the covenant. He obeyed every command, and at the cross, He received the curses for covenant breaking (Galatians 3:10-14). This is the steadfast love of the Lord. He alone keeps the covenant.
Having kept and fulfilled the covenant, God, in Christ, established a new covenant in which He promises His people a new heart, His indwelling Spirit, and the forgiveness of sins. This is the glorious news of the gospel. We who believe in Jesus are empowered by His Spirit to obey His commands. It also means that when we sin, we can run to God, not away from Him. For, He will forgive our sin and remember it no more.
Unlike our fragile, temporary lives (vv. 15-16), God’s steadfast love is everlasting (vv. 17-19). His mercies are new every morning, and they will never end. Remembering and meditating on this infinite covenant love should stir in us a heart of praise and thanksgiving. With David, we can sing, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (v. 1).
When you face difficulties, hardships, and persecution, are you tempted to doubt God’s goodness? Are you tempted to doubt God’s sovereignty? How does remembering God’s covenant faithfulness help you endure suffering?
When you sin, are you tempted to run away from God or to God? Why?
How does knowing God is unchanging in His covenant promise to forgive the sins of those who fear Him and keep His commandments encourage you? How does it encourage you when you’ve sinned? How does it encourage you to fight sin?
How does God remain righteous while also forgiving your sins? How does this good news stir your heart to praise God in worship? How does it stir your heart to obey His commands?
Juan Sanchez (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church. He is the author of numerous books, his most recent being The Leadership Formula: Develop the Next Generation of Leaders in the Church. Juan has been married to Jeanine since 1990, and they have five adult daughters.