December 5, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Psalm 33:18-22
Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
to deliver their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
In the season of Advent, we rekindle our hope in God. This happens as we experience God’s love for us in the present time. Hope points to the future and requires waiting. But God loves us right now. The more we experience God’s love, the more our hope for God’s future will grow with confidence and joy.
This devotion is part of the series: Advent in the Psalms.
My grandmother had a piece of furniture she called her “hope chest.” The outside of the chest was constructed of ornate, dark wood. If you lifted the lid of the chest, you’d discover a large space lined with cedar and filled with antique linens. When she was a young girl, my grandmother filled her hope chest with items she would need if she got married. Her hope chest was functional, to be sure. But it was also a sign of her hope that one day she would find true love. She was hoping not so much to use her linen collection as to fall in love and get married to a good man. (I’m glad she found that man, who turned out, of course, to be my grandfather!)
Psalm 33 makes a strong connection between hope and love. The love in this psalm is not the romantic love of a bride and a groom, however. Rather, it is the “steadfast love” of God for God’s people. The phrase “steadfast love” offers one possible rendering of the Hebrew word chesed, which has a variety of English translations, including “kindness, lovingkindness, unfailing love, or mercy.” The Old Testament consistently emphasizes God’s faithful, never-ending love for the people in covenant relationship with God. For these covenant people, God’s love is unwavering. It is steadfast.
Psalm 33 refers to “those who hope in [God’s] steadfast love” (33:18). When we need God’s help, we put our hope in the truth of God’s love for us. We remember how God has loved us in the past and believe with confidence that God will love us in the future. When we put our hope in God’s love, God’s “eye is upon us.” This suggests, not only that God is paying attention to us, but also that God will “deliver [our] soul from death” (Psalm 33:19).
Therefore, the psalm writer proclaims, “Our soul waits for the LORD.” Why? Because God “is our help and shield” (Psalm 33:20). In the past we experienced God’s chesed when God helped us and protected us from danger. Therefore, the psalmist continues, “Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name” (33:21). As we wait upon God, we are glad. This affirmation reiterates what we saw in yesterday’s devotion based on Psalm 146:5: “Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God” (146:5).
The final verse of Psalm 33 is a prayer of request: “Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (33:22). Our hope is oriented to the future. We long for that which we do not yet possess. Therefore, we must wait. Throughout the Psalms, indeed, throughout all of Scripture, hoping and waiting are consistently interwoven. In our waiting, we cry out with the psalm writer, “Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us.” We might make explicit what is implicit in this request, “Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us now.” Even though we must wait with hope for the fullness of God’s future kingdom, with its healing, justice, and peace, we can experience God’s faithful love right now. When we do, our hope is strengthened and our waiting is filled with gladness.
My grandmother’s hope chest was a sign of her hope that one day she would know the love of a man with whom she would spend her life. Our hope differs from this because we do not have to hope that someday we might know God’s love for us. That love is available right now. The more we experience God’s love in the present, the more we will have strong hope for all that comes in God’s future. Yes, on that day we will know God’s love even more profoundly. But we don’t have to wait for the assurance of God’s love. It comes now, revealed through Christ, energized by the Holy Spirit, augmented in Christian community, and shared as we serve others. Thus, the Advent connection between hope and love is better than a hope chest. Advent is a time for us, not only to wait and hope, but also to experience in a fresh way God’s love for us, a love that strengthens our hope.
In what ways have you experienced God’s love for you?
When you think about the future, what comes to mind? For what are you hoping?
What helps you to hang onto hope even when life is hard?
Set aside some time today to reflect on God’s love for you.
Gracious God, thank you for paying attention to us. Thank you for delivering us from death through the cross of Jesus. Thank you for all the ways you help and protect us every day. Thank you for being utterly trustworthy. Thank you for loving us steadfastly.
Let your steadfast love be upon me, O Lord, in this season of Advent. As I experience your love for me, renew and refresh my hope in you. May I wait for you with confident joy, knowing that your love will never let me go. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Play Skillfully.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.