Book IV is a response to the despair of Book III. With only two psalms attributed to David, this section anchors the worshiper outside the reign of David, all the way back to creation, the exodus, and the early history of the nation of Israel.
I remember distinctly the moment my sense of invincibility vanished. While I was a student in college, I worked a job that occasionally required the night shift. I was driving home after a shift; it was an empty road. No cars in sight. Just the drone of the road, and the hum of my compact sedan. I started feeling drowsy, when I was struck by the realization I could die. My own sense of mortality seized me in that moment, and a surge of adrenaline coursed through my body giving me a jolt of alertness, and with it a panicky feeling that didn’t go away. Since that moment that deep sense of my own mortality (and others) while driving hasn’t ever left me.
When I was struck with my mortality, I was struck by the reality of the road, and the vehicle I was driving. I was struck by the reality that both the road, and the vehicle were indifferent to my alertness or lack of alertness. Their concrete realities reflected their substance: asphalt, steel, and gasoline. And this fresh grasp of reality hit me in my nervous system as palpable fear.
When we are struck by the reality of God, the righteous response is godly fear. Here in Psalm 103:17, we are reminded that the truths of God’s person are not God’s indifference towards us but God’s faithful love for “those who fear Him”: “from eternity to eternity.” God desires for us to know Him for who He truly is, without misconception or faulty assumption. And when we know God rightly, we experience His faithful love.
God’s faithful love is covenantal. The kind of love that is bound by a solemn promise. The psalms are full of promises of God’s goodness and how God cares for us in His steadfast love. He forgives all our iniquity; He heals our diseases. He redeems us from the pit, crowns us with steadfast love and mercy, and refreshes us (Psalm 103:3–5). We are called by the writer of Psalm 105 to “seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” (Psalm 105:4).
We are called to seek the Lord and His strength, because His strength is dependable. As Psalm 105 makes clear, the Lord has been faithful in history to be true to His promises. The psalmist writes about God’s rescue of His people from slavery in Egypt, through the plagues, and the waters of the Red Sea; how by God’s strength He “brought Israel out with silver and gold” and gave them bread, and water “flowed like a stream in the desert” (vv.37,41). Why? Because “he remembered his holy promise to Abraham his servant” (v.42). God’s strength is for us, because God cares for His people.
Psalm 106 is a good reminder that God cares for His people because He is good. Why is He good? Because His steadfast love endures forever. Even as this psalmist describes the rebellion of God’s people, we read in verse 44–45 “When he heard their cry, he took note of their distress, remembered his covenant with them, and relented according to the abundance of his faithful love.”
If we don’t see God’s abundance of faithful love, are we seeing the unobscured reality of who God is? Are we seeing that God is not indifferent to our state, but a God who looks upon us in our distress? God’s concrete realities reflect His substance. God’s steadfast love cannot change. Just as we see the psalmists rehearse God’s actions throughout Israel’s history, we see once and for all God’s care for us through the person and work of Jesus. In other words, Jesus reveals the concrete realities of God’s faithful love and care for us.