I preached Psalm 18:19 a while back. And you know my first reaction as I was preparing?
Hmmm, tricky, how on earth should we understand this…?
I hope you’re all saying: But why Glen – it seems perfectly straightforward.
Well, there’s the slightly tricky part about how we take the verse on our own lips. Clearly it’s Christ speaking of His Father. But once we’re all happy to sing the Psalm in Christ then I hope you’re all saying to yourselves: Glen, it’s perfectly obvious. The Lord saves us because He loves us. What could be difficult about that?
Ah, but you see I regularly fall into a foolish and horrible error – perhaps you’re the same. I start thinking that Jesus died so that God could love me. I imagine that God saves in order to love. He cleans me up a bit and then gives me His grace. His atonement leads to love, (rather than love leading to the atonement). Do you see my error?
And so when Psalm 18 spoke of the Lord delighting in me and therefore rescuing me? Well it seemed backwards. And so I really had to let the word confront me again.
Because in the Bible God loves the world and so sends the Son to save (John 3:16-17). In the Bible it’s ‘because of His great love for us that God makes us alive’, even when we were dead in sins (Eph 2:4). In the Bible God demonstrates His own love for us in that Christ died for powerless, ungodly, sinful enemies (Rom 5:6-11).
Do you see what these verses are saying? God loves and so He saves. It does not say – God saves and so He loves.
Why’s that important? Well for one thing it means that Christ loves me – SINNER THAT I AM. It’s not a case of Christ loving the saved me (though of course He does). But it’s the radical gospel truth that Christ has loved me at my putrid worst. He doesn’t clean me up in order to love me. He loves me and so cleanses me through His atoning death.
Which means when I ask myself, ‘Does God love me?’ – I can look to the cross alone. I don’t have to check my own saved status. I don’t have to worry whether the cleansing has taken sufficient effect to allow me entrance into His affections. I can simply look at Christ crucified and say – God loves me. There is His demonstration – a love for sinners at war with Him. He has not fixed His love on me at my best. He has fixed His love on me at my worst.
My salvation – won through His blood alone – proves His love for me. His love is not a bonus for the godly but is specifically aimed at enemies. Such love is the very ground of all He does. If I’m looking at the Son lifted up on the cross then I’m seeing God’s love for me because there I’m seeing my salvation. This salvation in Christ is infallible proof of God’s immovable, inexhaustible and unfathomable love for me.
He rescued me because He delighted in me. (Ps 18:19)
Christian, God speaks that word to you right now. Believe it.