Thank Jehovah for His Loving-kindness
“O let people give thanks to Jehovah for his loving-kindness and for his wonderful works.”—Ps. 107:8.
1, 2. (a) In times of distress, what do we sorely need? (b) What is often lacking in this regard in today’s world? (2 Tim. 3:1, 2)
HOW good it is to have someone who will stick loyally by you in times of difficulty! Doubtless you have known occasions when, perhaps due to your own errors or weaknesses, you have gotten into circumstances that left you depressed or that brought you suffering. How much you appreciated it if someone, out of unselfish devotion to you, kindly excused your fault in the matter and came to your aid, bringing you out of your distress.
2 As the Bible proverb expresses it: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Prov. 17:17) Such examples of kindness born of unselfish devotion are, sadly, not very common today. Sometimes the deepest hurt can be caused by the very persons that one thought to be one’s friends. (Prov. 18:24) And, on the other side of the coin, there are many persons who fail to appreciate it when they are the object of such devoted kindness. Many husbands with loyally devoted wives take these for granted, seldom expressing gratitude for their loving interest, and this is true of many wives in their attitude toward devoted husbands. But what a joy it is when such devoted kindness is shown and is received with grateful thanks!
3. How does the psalmist point us to the greatest friend we could have?
3 All the examples of loving-kindness expressed by humans are small indeed when compared to that of the One whose friendship is to be sought after and treasured above all others. To that One the psalmist sang: “O give thanks to Jehovah, you people, for he is good; for his loving-kindness is to time indefinite.”—Ps. 107:1.
A PRECIOUS QUALITY
4, 5. (a) What is implied by the expression “loving-kindness”? (b) How is loving-kindness a mark of Jehovah? (Ps. 86:15)
4 What is this “loving-kindness” of Jehovah that is spoken of in Psalm 107? This quality involves love that takes an active interest in others. “Loving-kindness” translates the Hebrew word hheʹsedh, which carries the idea of kindness or regard motivated by love. But more is involved. Professor R. E. Perry observes that hheʹsedh “signifies an attitude of either God or man born out of mutual relationship,” and it “denotes ‘kindness’ or ‘help’ received from a superior. . . . The principal connotation of [hheʹsedh] is ‘loyal love.’” So there is fidelity involved in God’s loving-kindness. Thus the Revised Standard Version presents Solomon as speaking of God’s having “shown great and steadfast love [or, “loving-kindness”] to David my father.”—2 Chron. 1:8; compare 2 Samuel 9:1-7.
5 Jehovah’s loving-kindness, then, is not a casual thing such as the favor of a capricious human king might be. Rather, there is solidarity and loyalty inherent in it. This quality is precious to Jehovah, something that he delights to display, particularly toward faithful individuals. It should also be precious to those who receive of it. Well could David write: “How precious your loving-kindness is, O God! And in the shadow of your wings the sons of men themselves take refuge.”—Ps. 36:7.
6. Why do we need to examine ourselves in relation to Jehovah’s loving-kindness?
6 A fundamental law of the physical universe is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. However, this is not automatically the case in spiritual matters. Each of us can ask: What is my reaction to God’s displays of loving-kindness? Many might find that question hard to answer, for the expression “loving-kindness” may seem rather abstract. Have you, though, ever reflected on concrete examples of how you have been affected by God’s loving-kindness? Doing this may greatly increase your appreciation for this loving-kindness, drawing you closer to him.
A GOD WHO IS KIND TO ALL
7. Does God limit his kindnesses to those in an approved relationship with him?
7 While Jehovah’s loyal love, or “loving-kindness,” is expressed toward those who have come into an approved relationship with him, this certainly does not mean that he is unkind to those outside such a relationship. When on earth God’s Son said: “The Most High . . . is kind toward the unthankful and wicked. Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35, 36) The apostle Paul could say to idol-worshiping people in Lystra that God “did not leave himself without witness in that he did good, giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts to the full with food and good cheer.” (Acts 14:17) All of this is an undeserved kindness on God’s part, an expression of his great mercy toward all mankind in general.
8. (a) How does creation offer reason for us to thank Jehovah? (Ps. 33:5) (b) What more powerful reasons do we have?
8 How easy it is to take what we have for granted. Ask yourself: How would you describe the color of the sky or the beauty of a flower to a person born blind? If a person had never been able to hear, could you explain to him the sensation of hearing, being able to hear the birds, to converse, to listen to pleasant music? The abilities to see and hear, capacities that almost all of us have, are truly a blessing, are they not? Yet how often do we express gratitude to God, the Creator, for these? (Prov. 20:12; Ex. 4:11) There are, nonetheless, far more powerful reasons for thanking and praising Jehovah. These reasons are found in his wonderful works that make it possible for us to enter into an approved relationship with him. Thereby not only can we be objects of his general kindness to all mankind but we can become the objects of his loyal love, his loving-kindness demonstrated to those of the “sons of men” who have responded to his merciful provision and who gratefully serve him.—Ps. 107:8.
9. What had been the situation of Gentiles in Ephesus, and how did some of these become Christians?
9 The apostle Paul wrote that Gentile Christians in ancient Ephesus had once been “without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise, and [they] had no hope and were without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:11, 12) Because it was God’s will that both Jews and Gentiles have the opportunity to accept Christ, the message of reconciliation went to those Gentiles. (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:21, 22; 2 Cor. 5:18-21) That was an outstanding reason for them to thank God for his mercy.
10. Similarly, why can you be thankful for God’s undeserved kindness?
10 Is it any less so with you? Think of all the millions of persons on earth who are yet blinded by erroneous religious teachings. (2 Cor. 4:3, 4; Matt. 15:8, 9, 14) Whereas you too might have ‘had no hope and been without God in the world,’ you now know the truth of God’s Word and can serve him. Do you regularly thank God for allowing you to learn the truth and become his friend?
11. How did Jehovah display great kindness toward individual Gentiles in ancient Ephesus?
11 Let us make the matter even more personal. When the truth reached those Ephesians many of them probably were like persons in ancient Corinth, ‘fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, men kept for unnatural purposes, thieves, greedy persons, drunkards, revilers and extortioners.’ (1 Cor. 6:9-11) But mercy could be shown to them because Jehovah had sent his Son to provide a sacrificial basis for forgiving sins. Thus Paul reminded the Ephesians of “the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.” (Eph. 1:7) Was not God’s willingness to forgive their sins a marvelous display of undeserved kindness? What of us?
12, 13. (a) We each know what about our past, as suggested by Titus 3:3-5? (b) What personal reason do we have, then, for thanking Jehovah?
12 Each of us is aware of our own past. Likely we know of many sins that we committed for which we needed forgiveness, not to mention numerous sins that we do not recall. It should touch our heart to think: God in his mercy and love is willing to forgive us. That is a display of his kindness toward us as a result of our accepting Christ’s sacrifice and exercising faith. Imagine if you had a new suit that you especially liked, but the first time that you wore it you spilled something on it. Anxiously you take it to a clothes cleaning shop, hopeful that the stain can be removed. Then you go back to get the suit. Look! The spot is gone! Would you not be happy, yes, thankful? How, then, should we feel in response to Jehovah’s forgiving us the sins that stained us in the past—a marvelous display of God’s undeserved kindness?—Ps. 103:3, 12-14; Num. 14:19.
13 There is no question but that we have reason to thank and praise God for such undeserved kindness. However, since we have become part of his people, his Christian worshipers, there are many ways that he has demonstrated loyalty to us, coming to our aid with his marvelous loving-kindness.
TO HIS PEOPLE AS A GROUP
14. How else can we discern reasons that we have to thank Jehovah?
14 Jehovah’s worshipers have long recognized manifestations of God’s loyal love in his dealings with them. By examining some of the Biblical instances of this, you likely will be aided to discern additional reasons that you have for thanking him.
15. How did Jehovah deliver the Israelites from Egyptian slavery?
15 The book of Exodus relates how Jehovah led his people from Egyptian bondage to the western shore of the Red Sea. Then he miraculously parted the waters so that the millions of Israelites and their associates could cross safely. When the Egyptians tried to thwart Jehovah’s deliverance, he used the same waters to destroy them all, including powerful Pharaoh. (Ex. 14:21-30; Ps. 136:1, 10-15) How would you have reacted had you been with God’s people?
16. Israel responded in what appropriate manner?
16 Safe on the other shore, Moses and the sons of Israel thanked Jehovah in song, saying: “Who is like you, proving yourself mighty in holiness? . . . You in your loving-kindness have led the people whom you have recovered; you in your strength will certainly conduct them to your holy abiding place.” (Ex. 15:11-13) God’s leading and delivering them instilled in them confidence that he would continue to do that right on into the Promised Land. (Ex. 15:17) God’s act was a display, not merely of his power, but also of his loving-kindness, for which they thanked and praised him.
17. What parallels can we find in God’s modern dealings with his people?
17 Do you respond in a similar way? Perhaps, though, you may feel that God has not specifically intervened with such deliverances at this time. Yet what of the many modern-day instances where true worshipers have been freed from restraints or relieved of persecution? When you hear such reports, do you tend to show only mild interest before you are occupied again with the cares of daily life? For instance, after many years of teaching and meeting “underground” because of government ban, Jehovah’s Witnesses are now free to carry on their Bible educational work in Spain, Portugal and Greece. Is this not reason for rejoicing? Is it not evidence of Jehovah’s loving-kindness? God could have let conditions continue as they were. Instead it was his will that these changes occur. Do you respond as the Israelites did, thanking and praising Jehovah for such displays of his loving-kindness? Have you specifically mentioned these deliverances to others, as it were, singing praises for God’s loving-kindness?—Col. 3:16.
18 Furthermore, you may have had experiences that similarly are reason to thank Jehovah for his loving-kindness. Have you, for example, been the object of ridicule because of upholding Christian principles? Maybe it was for refraining from dishonest practices on your job, refusing to cheat at school or declining to share in neighborhood gossip. (Eph. 6:5-8; Heb. 13:18; 1 Tim. 5:13) Or pressure may have been applied to force you to compromise on your worship. (Dan. 3:16-18; Rev. 18:4, 5) That abuse or opposition was not pleasant, was it? Yet in time it may have stopped. The opposers may have grown tired or come to respect your sticking to Bible principles. But the point is that you upheld the issue of God’s sovereignty by doing what was right in Jehovah’s eyes, and he aided you to remain firm until relief came. Is that not a manifestation of his loving-kindness for which to thank and praise him?—Ps. 22:22, 25; 23:6.
19. When King David finally succeeded in having the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem, what expression of praise did this occasion?
19 The Bible contains many other historical examples of God’s loving-kindness. Often these were cases when he caused or aided advances in true worship. One incident involved the sacred chest called the Ark of the Covenant that represented Jehovah’s presence in Israel. (Ex. 25:10-22) After the Israelites entered the Promised Land the Ark remained for years, not in its tent at Shiloh, but at Kiriath-jearim. David wanted to bring it to Jerusalem where he sat on Jehovah’s throne. His first attempt to do that failed. (1 Chron. 13:1-14) Finally, he brought the Ark, properly carried by Levites, to Jerusalem. (1 Chron. 15:1-28) This grand occasion prompted the following expression of praise: “Give thanks to Jehovah, you people, for he is good, for to time indefinite is his loving-kindness.”—1 Chron. 16:1, 8, 34-36.
20. What might be recognized as similar evidence of loving-kindness today?
20 Do you respond likewise when a progressive step is taken that elevates true worship? (Isa. 2:2, 3) Perhaps a new provision is made so that additional persons can learn of Jehovah. It might be a new book used in teaching Bible truths. Or it could be a special issue of The Watchtower or Awake! designed to convince a certain type of person of the need to serve God. Or there may be an improved arrangement involving the spiritual elders in the congregation. Do you find yourself responding as David did, thanking Jehovah for the loving-kindness of such progressive steps in true worship? Certainly there is ample reason to do so.
21. In 536 B.C.E., true worshipers recognized what construction to be an example of God’s loving-kindness?
21 With your own situation in mind, consider one more Bible example. Back in the second lunar month (April-May), 536 B.C.E., the Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon began to reconstruct Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. They personally had not freed themselves from Babylon nor had they originated the idea of rebuilding the temple. The credit went to Jehovah. (Ezra 1:1, 5) Was the building program to be taken lightly? We read: “The builders laid the foundation of the temple. . . . And [the observing priests and Levites] began to respond by praising and giving thanks to Jehovah, ‘for he is good, for his loving-kindness toward Israel is to time indefinite.’ As for all the people, they shouted with a loud shout in praising Jehovah over the laying of the foundation of the house of Jehovah.”—Ezra 3:10, 11.
22 Now, what about today? Your congregation may formerly have rented a place in which to meet but now has built a Kingdom Hall. Or maybe your congregation has recently expanded or refurbished the Kingdom Hall. Or your meeting attendances may be building up, with new families of interested persons appearing at your hall. Or many in the congregation may have been stirred to share in auxiliary pioneer service. In such things, do you sense Jehovah’s hand in the matter, recognizing that it is he who has promoted it and who has poured out his spirit and blessing? Yes, do you realize that such accomplishments are displays of Jehovah’s abundant loving-kindness? Does it move you to rejoice also?
23. We can conclude what about God’s dealings with us? But what aspects of this matter yet merit consideration?
23 Unquestionably Christians have numerous reasons to thank and praise Jehovah for his loving-kindness: For the expressions of it in connection with his declared purpose that benefit all humans dwelling among his creative works. For the displays of it that involve us as individuals. And for the loving-kindness we have experienced as part of God’s people. However, in practical terms just how will you go about giving thanks to Jehovah for his loving-kindness? These are aspects to consider in the following discussion.