I will tell you one of the most wonderful things in this world. Sometimes I’m at my computer working or playing a game, or I can be at the table eating or reading, and my wife will walk over and wrap her arms around me. She will then plant several kisses on my head. Seemingly for no reason at all, she has decided to love on me. And, I just lean into it. I luxuriate in her embrace. It is a simple act, but it is one of my earthly joys. Why? I know I am loved.
Do I deserve this love? No, it is not something I have earned. My wife gives it because she loves me.
I Know I Am Loved Because of God’s Compassion
It’s interesting to me, and a verification of the truth of scripture, that the Bible paints the heroes of faith as flawed men and women. For instance, one of these, David, reigned as king of Israel. The Bible describes him as a man after God’s own heart. The New Testament often refers to Jesus as the Son of David. Yet, the Bible doesn’t hide or polish David’s sin. The story unfolds in 2 Samuel in almost graphic detail. But, Psalm 51 reveals David’s heart after he was exposed.
David acknowledges his guilt, confesses his guilt and asks cleansing based on the greatness of God’s compassion. How often have I done what is not right in the eyes of God? But 1 John 1:9 states: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When I have confessed my sin, I can know that God wraps His arms around me. I don’t deserve it, but I am loved.
I Know I Am Loved Because of God’s Discipline
If you have children, I’m guessing you never had to teach them to be bad. You train them to be good. Our sin nature became our inheritance when Adam and Eve sinned. For example, David used these words: “Behold, I was brought forth in guilt, And in sin my mother conceived me.”
I own this tendency. My nature tends toward sin.
Just as parents discipline their children, so God disciplines His. First there is training. Like a parent, God teaches His children. He uses His Word, the Bible, and His Spirit to guide us into right living. Sometimes with our parents, our failure meets with punishment that is not appropriate to the act. However, God’s punishment is always exactly what I need. I may not like it, but I can know that God acts for my good. A child needs discipline to experience love from his or her parents. In the same way, God disciplines me and I know I am loved.
The Prayers of a Heart that Is Loved
David then brings up six pleas to God. Firstly, he asks “create in me a clean heart.” This is the forgiveness we need from God. Secondly, he asks for the renewal of a steadfast spirit. Right living, righteousness in Bible language, is what we need and it needs to flow from who I am. Consistently living a Christlike life in this world requires this dedication.
Next, David asks for two things that seem foreign to our Christian understanding of our relationship with God. “Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Obviously, David’s sight is pre-Christian. He lived on the other side of the cross. But even for us, we can realize that our sins hinder and often obscure our relationship with God. They don’t cause God’s Spirit to leave us, but they block Him from working in and through our lives.
Finally, David asks for the restoration of the joy of salvation and the sustenance of a willing spirit. Joy is a gift of God. It is joy that fills our lives and strengthens us for the tasks and trials of daily living. And, we need a willing spirit, daily and hourly, I might even say “minute-ly and second-ly,” to live in the will of our God.
The Acts of a Heart that Knows Love
When I know I am loved, then I can teach others the ways of God. I can joyfully sing of His righteousness. My mouth can declare God’s praises. The great truth revealed: God responds to the attitude of our hearts – broken and contrite –before Him. He knows that right actions can only come from a right heart. When our hearts are right before Him, He will find delight in our right actions.
My wife lets me know that she loves me. When she does, I want to be in right relationship with her. I want to please her.
When I know I am loved by my heavenly Father, I will want to do those things which please Him. I will confess my sin. I will ask His forgiveness. His discipline I will recognize as an act of His love for me. My knowledge of Him will grow as I live in His presence. And my life will become conformed to His will and desire for me. I become transformed into His image on earth so others can see and know His great and marvelous love.
A Hymn of God’s Love
The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am his,
and he is mine forever.
Where streams of living water flow,
my ransomed soul he leadeth;
and where the verdant pastures grow,
with food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me;
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill,
with thee, dear Lord, beside me;
thy rod and staff my comfort still,
thy cross before to guide me.
Thou spreadst a table in my sight;
thy unction grace bestoweth;
and oh, what transport of delight
from thy pure chalice floweth!
And so through all the length of days,
thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
within thy house forever.
“The King of Love My Shepherd Is”
Author: H. W. Baker (1868)
from the United Methodist Hymnal, 1989