The Two Most Important Words in the Bible

by Andy Wood on May 15, 2013

in Allocating Your Resources, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, Love, LV Cycle, Principle of Eternity, Time

English: Scroll of the Psalms

Okay, let’s start an argument. What would you say are the two most important words in the Bible?

You’re wrong.

I know because my two words are (probably) different, and I know I’m right.

Yeah, yeah, I know, they’re all important. But the way I figure it, if the Lord took the time to repeat something over and over and over, He must be getting at something.

Now I have to admit, it took me about 40 years to realize this. Which is about how long it took Moses to figure some things out, too, but I digress. The reason I took so long is because I let my brain check out when it should have been sitting up and taking notice.

Follow the Bouncing Brain and Sing Along

Okay. So you know that the book of Psalms is a song book, right? This stuff was meant to be sung. Which made perfectly good sense when I first read Psalm 136. That baby would make a perfect Michael W. Smith sing-along.

Follow along with my brain as I read it for the first time:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Sweet. Amen!

Give thanks to the God of gods,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Yes, you are the God of gods! And Your love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Okay I’m seeing a pattern here…

To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;

Yep. He’s gonna say that last part every time. This must be one of those antiphonal songs.

To Him who made the heavens with skill,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;

I can read this a whole lot faster if I just skip the last part. I know what that says.

To Him who spread out the earth above the waters…

Uh huh.

To Him who made the great lights…

Yep.

The sun to rule by day…

I get it.

The moon and stars to rule by night…

Zzzzzz.

I Think He Must Mean It

Twenty-six times the psalmist repeated the same phrase. And in the hundreds of times I read this psalm, I treated it like the thoughtless chorus to a snappy song.

Let me ask you a question. What if there was somebody you loved with all your heart, and you kept looking for ways to express it to them? Knowing that words are often so limited to convey the depth of your feeling, sometimes the best you can do is the simple approach – just say it.

And say it.

And say it… hoping they will truly get it.

How would you feel after saying it repeatedly if that person got so used to hearing it that she took it completely for granted?  Yeah, whatever.  Uh huh.

So here I was yesterday, staring again at this well-worn psalm. And the sweet memo from Heaven was crystal clear:  You can’t understand the first parts of the verses until you understand the last parts.

So I stopped.  Looked.  Listened. And realized… this was no snappy song or adolescent love note. It was spiritual protein. And the more I looked and listened, the more I realized that – properly understood – here, repeated, are the two most important words in all of Scripture. Because whatever words you may have used to answer that first question above flows into or out of these two words.

And the words?  Wouldn’t you know it? They’re difficult to translate into English with just one word.  But here’s the way the New American Standard Version translates them:

Lovingkindness.

Everlasting.

Covenant Love

The Hebrew word that is translated “lovingkindness” has also been translated “mercy,” “steadfast love,” “(my favorite…) covenant love,” “faithful love,” “loyal love,” “love,” and “grace.”   It has so many translations because no one word in English can contain it. It’s a construct, which means it has a combination of ideas, and all are important. Take one away and you cease to have the construct.

This word – this beautiful word – is the combination of three ideas: shared strength, steadfast commitment, and love. In the Bible it has two dimensions – the love between us and God, and the love that can be expressed between you and the choice people in your life.

Make no mistake about it – this is love. But it’s not limited to sentimental feelings. It is strong, rugged, passionate, even gritty. It’s a love that fights when necessary, forgives repeatedly, and gives continually. It’s a love that doesn’t play mind games or manipulate. Rather, it’s a love that perseveres with joy and kindness.

It is steadfastness, or faithfulness to commitments or covenants. In fact, you can’t understand this word fully without understanding how seriously God takes covenants and commitments. But it goes beyond mere obligation. This is more than gritting your teeth and putting up with a relationship or “hanging in there for the sake of the kids.” It is a steadfastness that is bathed in kindness and continues to share life.

This is also strength. Shared strength. That’s why sometimes people translate it “mercy” because when God shares His strength to us, that what it is. This is a love that is strong when we are weak. It is faithful when we are not. Always, always, it is shared. This kind of love always translates into “we” love – a giving and receiving kind of identity. What blesses me I share with those I have “lovingkindness” for. Whoever attacks me attacks those who are in covenant with me as well. There is no “I” in lovingkindness. It’s always “we.”

The bane of contemporary life, secular and supposedly sacred, is that we try to separate these three into individual units.  We want “love” without commitment or shared strength. What we get is exploitative sex, abusive relationships, and walled-up marriages.

We want steadfastness devoid of love or sharing. This produces isolated achievers – lonely successes or loveless legalists.

We want shared strength without commitment or love. This produces the deception of “cheap grace,” or a works mentality that tries to please others or sucks them dry without actually loving them or being loyal to them.

It takes all three. Imagine being fully engaged with a family or community that shared love, commitment and strength every day.

Imagine leading an organization or team built around those three ideas.

Imagine growing daily in a love relationship with Jesus Christ in which you shared and renewed those three things every day.

That leads to…

Everlasting

Okay, let’s get this on the table up front – “forever” is a prettier word. It’s magical, poetic, even romantic. But it can mean two different things – eternal and lifelong.

Hey, guess what?  The Hebrew word does the same thing! It’s one word that can go a couple a directions. “Eternal” means not being trapped in the present. It means it lasts for all eternity. But here, as it is used in this psalm, a little article is added that means, “for as long as I live.”

Does that mean God quits loving us or being in covenant with us when we get to heaven? Of course not.  But the focus is in the “dirty here-and-now.”  What the psalmist is saying is that as long as we live, we live with the covenant love of God.

Sun comes up… covenant love.

Sun goes down… covenant love.

Battles to fight… covenant love.

Wounds to heal… covenant love.

Victories to win… covenant love.

Defeats to endure… covenant love.

Loved by friends… covenant love.

Rejected or betrayed… covenant love.

Sickness or health… covenant love.

Richer or poorer… covenant love.

Nothing… nothing… that can occupy your days will ever take you outside the covenant love of God.  It is everlasting.

This is a love for a lifetime, and whether or not you and I show it well, God means it and does.

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never-ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame,
And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise…

Now… go back and insert some of those words you thought of in the beginning, and see if they don’t fit.

God… He’s there.

Love… ditto.

World… yep.

Gave… oh yes.

Jesus, the only begotten Son… absolutely.

Believes… you can’t experience covenant love without it.

Everlasting life… yeah, that. And it doesn’t start when you get to heaven. If you’re a believer, you have it now.

My prayer for you is that you drink deeply of the everlasting covenant love of the Lord God today – and in His name touch the lives of others with it as well. And then tomorrow, we have the distinct privilege of doing it all over again.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Wood May 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Andy,

My heart for you with Jesus’ is lovingkindness that is everlasting! That is the cry of my heart.

Forever yours,

Robin

Jeff Suderman May 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm

This is an excellent example of what scholars have dubbed ‘complementarity’ – some words/principles alone cannot explain a phenomena that two principles together can (Einstein & Infeld, 1938). In this case it is actually three words. The triadic Godhead exemplifies the value and origins of complementarity!

Martha Orlando May 15, 2013 at 2:20 pm

“His love endures forever . . .” Lovingkindness/everlasting – that describes our relationship with God perfectly.
Thank you for this enlightening inspiration, Andy!
Blessings!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Choosing to Love

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