The phrase “give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever” appears exactly like this 10 times in the Old Testament but appears in part and sentiment throughout scripture. The eternally enduring love of God should inspire thanksgiving in everyone.
The Appearance to Moses in Exodus 34
Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments, breaking the tablets in anger as the people worshiped idols, disobeying the command they heard from God’s thundering voice. After Moses made new tablets God allowed Moses to see His glory pass, both His presence and a description of His glorious nature. Exodus 34:5-8 declare God’s mercy and justice upon generations arising from his steadfast love and faithfulness.
What Does “Steadfast” Mean?
“Steadfast” means something firmly fixed in place or “standing fast” and immovable. Considering the eternal nature of God, this means His love outlives our short earthly existence. Our children and future generations will know it as did our parents, grandparents, and ancestors.
“Throughout the OT the Hebrews [word] is used most often to convey the idea of something being established…or standing firm. This quality of steadfastness or firmness often has a moral character to it; a heart that is steadfast towards God is a faithful heart that trusts Him under all circumstances.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
His steadfast love for us should produce steadfast love for Him in our hearts.
The Ark and the Tabernacle
When the Ark of the Covenant is placed in the tabernacle, in 1 Chronicles 16, David fed the people, the priests offered sacrifices, and Levites offered praise before the Ark. The steadfast love of God was the theme of the praise offered morning and evening.
David offered a song of thanksgiving, 1 Chronicles 16:8-34. As we summarize this song, note that we can pray and praise the same theme.
- Give thanks to God because of all of His wondrous works and mighty power for His people.
- Let those who seek the Lord seek His strength.
- God is judge of all the earth.
- God and His people have made a covenant together.
- God protected His people when they were few and vulnerable.
- The righteous should remind each other to praise God in the greatest ways for “splendor and majesty are before him and strength and joy are in His place.”
- Let all creation give God the glory, honor, and thanksgiving due Him.
- The saved should give thanks to the God of salvation.
The song closes with “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”
Jehosophat’s battle song
The phrase arises in a darker period of Jewish history when the tribes divided into two confederations, Israel and Judah. The people of Judah emerged from a period of unfaithfulness, but soon after the reforms of Jehoshaphat enemies gathered against them. Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast, telling the assembly to seek God.
Jehoshaphat appealed to God’s steadfastness, listing the great deeds performed for His people in times past, expressing anxiety about the enemies but their trust in Him (1 Chronicles 20). God promised to deliver them if they remained steadfast (hold their position) and trusted in the Lord, 1 Chronicles 20:15-17. They put the enemy to flight by singing praise of God’s steadfast love, 1 Chronicles 20:20-22.
It Is The Theme of Several Psalms
The psalm begins with the praise of God’s steadfast love and His works and salvation. However, the psalm confesses sin and lack of faith among God’s people, His merciful deliverance, and their quick return to unfaithfulness, 106:6-13. The psalm resounds with God’s people forgetting what He had done, their lack of trust in His future deliverance despite the past victories, and turning from God despite His mercy. Rebellion after rebellion is detailed but the psalm concludes with the steadfast love and mercy of the Lord, 106:44-48. The steadfast love of the Lord endures even when God’s people do not remain faithful to Him but is ready when they humbly return to Him.
The phrase begins the psalm with an exhortation “let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” The psalm praises God’s gathering His people from times of trial and exile.
- God conveyed them from deserted places, hungry and thirsty, to their own city.
- Some were exiled and prisoners, enduring hard labor, because they rebelled against God but cried for deliverance when they came to their senses.
- Those who were foolish through sinful ways repented and cried to God who delivered them from destruction.
- The proud, distressed seeing the mighty power of God in stormy seas, and cried to God who delivered them.
- When Israel was wicked, God made a fruitful land a desert, but when they repented brought bounty on the land and protected the livestock.
- God punished His people, thorough love, to bring them back, humble their pride, and wake them from wickedness.
- Proverbs 3:11-12 – “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
- Hebrews 12:6 – “”For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
The psalmist opened with praise to God’s steadfast love and salvation, followed by an apparent hopeless situation as enemies surrounded him and “pushed him hard” so that he was falling, but God helped Him. Deliverance is not always immediate. We must endure trials to see if we will trust God. Jesus told the parable of the unjust judge to teach His followers to “pray always and not lose heart” especially when it appears that God is not listening or doing anything about our situation.
The psalm ends with praise for deliverance, confidently entering the gates of God, victorious because they trusted God when it seemed hope was lost. You are my God and give thanks for His steadfast love endures forever!
It appears the priest would say the first part and the audience would answer “for His steadfast love endures forever.” The psalm praises God’s superiority, His mighty works in creation, delivering Israel from Egypt, and conquest of Israel’s enemies to give them a home in the Promised Land.
The Darkness of Exile
Finally, in the darkness of Judah’s exile, after God destroyed Jerusalem to punish the wickedness of Judah, the praise of God’s enduring steadfast love appears as a light. Jeremiah 33 records the promise of Judah’s escape from exile to return to their land, filling God’s house with praise and rebuilding Jerusalem. They would return because His steadfast love endures forever. This thought comforted Jeremiah even in the midst of the pain of exile, Lamentations 3:19-26.
Taking into account all of these things when should we “give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever?”
- In good times when food is plentiful and we are healthy.
- In hard times when food is scarce and we are sick and in pain.
- When our rulers are good, justice pervades the land, and the people are righteous.
- When our rulers are corrupt, injustice prevails, and the people are wicked.
- When our faith is strong and we are active in His service and confident in His word.
- When our faith is weak, we struggle in prayers and service, and doubts arise.
- When we enjoy the fruits of a faithful life to God.
- When we have been humbled by the discipline of God and must deal with the consequences of our sin that woke us up to our unfaithfulness or spiritual sleep.
- When, like Jehoshaphat, enemies surround us and it appears that Satan is prevailing, we can stand our ground in the confidence and hope of the Lord, praying and singing.
- When we are at death’s door and eternity awaits on the other side.
Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever?”