The Attributes of God
by Arthur Pink
The LOVING-KINDNESS of God
We propose to engage the reader with another of God's excellencies, of which every Christian receives innumerable proofs. We turn to a consideration of God's loving-kindness because our aim is to maintain a due proportion in treating of the divine perfections, for all of us are apt to entertain one-sided views of them. A balance must be preserved here (as everywhere), as it appears in those two statements of the divine attributes,
"God is light" (1 John 1:5),
"God is love" (1 John 4:8).
The sterner, more awe-inspiring aspects of the divine character are offset by the gentler, more winsome ones. It is to our irreparable loss if we dwell exclusively on God's sovereignty and majesty, or His holiness and justice. We need to meditate frequently, though not exclusively, on His goodness and mercy. Nothing short of a full-orbed view of the divine perfection revealed in Holy Writ, should satisfy us.
Scripture speaks of "the multitude of His loving-kindnesses," and who is capable of numbering them? (Isaiah 63:7). Said the Psalmist, "How excellent is Your loving-kindness, O God!" (36:7). No pen of man, no tongue of angel, can adequately express it. Familiar as this blessed attribute of God's may be to people, it is something entirely peculiar to divine revelation. None of the ancients ever dreamed of investing his "gods" with such an endearing perfection as this. None of the objects worshiped by present-day heathen possess gentleness and tenderness; very much the reverse is true, as the hideous features of their idols exhibit. Philosophers regard it as a serious reflection upon the honor of the Absolute to ascribe such qualities to it. But the Scriptures have much to say about God's loving-kindness, or His paternal favor to His people, His tender affection toward them.
The first time this divine perfection is mentioned in the Word is in that wondrous manifestation of Deity to Moses, when Jehovah proclaimed His "Name," that is, Himself as made known. "Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6), though much more frequently the Hebrew word, chesed, is rendered "kindness" and "loving-kindness." In our English Bibles the initial reference, as connected with God, is Psalm 17:7, where David prayed, "Show Your marvelous loving-kindness, O You who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes."
Marvelous it is, that One so infinitely above us, so inconceivably glorious, so ineffably holy—should not only notice such worms of the earth, but also set His heart upon them, give His Son for them, send His Spirit to indwell them, and so bear with all their imperfections and waywardness as never to remove His loving-kindness from them.
Consider some of the evidences and exercises of this divine attribute unto the saints, "In love having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself" (Ephesians 1:4,5). As the previous verse shows, that love was engaged in their behalf before this world came into existence. "This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9), which was His amazing provision for us fallen creatures. "I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you" (Jeremiah 31:3)—by the quickening operations of My Spirit, by the invincible power of My grace, by creating in you a deep sense of need, by attracting you by My winsomeness. "I will take you to be My wife forever. I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion." (Hosea 2:19). Having made us willing in the day of His power to give ourselves to Him, the Lord enters into an everlasting marriage contract with us!
This loving-kindness of the Lord is never removed from His children. To our reason it may appear to be so, yet it never is. Since the believer is in Christ, nothing can separate him from the love of God (Romans 8:39). God has solemnly engaged Himself by covenant, and our sins cannot make it void. God has sworn that if His children keep not His commandments He will "visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes." Yet He adds, "Nevertheless My loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor allow my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break" (Psalm 89:31-34). Observe the change of number from "their" and "them" to "him." The loving-kindness of God toward His people is centered in Christ. Because His exercise of loving-kindness is a covenant engagement it is repeatedly linked to His "truth" (Psalm 40:11; 138:2), showing that it proceeds to us by promise. Therefore we should never despair.
"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord, who has compassion on you" (Isaiah 54:10). No, that covenant has been ratified by the blood of its Mediator, by which blood the enmity (occasioned by sin) has been removed, and perfect reconciliation effected. God knows the thoughts which He entertains for those embraced in His covenant and who have been reconciled to Him; namely, "thoughts of peace, and not of evil" (Jeremiah 29:11). Therefore we are assured, "The Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me" (Psalm 42:8). What a word that is! Not merely that the Lord will give or bestow, but command His loving-kindness. It is given by decree, bestowed by royal engagement, as He also commands "deliverances ... the blessing, even life for evermore" (Psalm 44:4; 133:3), which announces that nothing can possibly hinder these bestowments. What ought OUR RESPONSE to be?
First, "Be therefore imitators of God as dear children; and walk in love" (Ephesians 5:1,2). "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12). Thus it was with David: "Your loving-kindness is before my eyes; and I have walked in Your truth" (Psalm 26:3). He delighted to ponder it. It refreshed his soul to do so, and it molded his conduct. The more we are occupied with God's goodness, the more careful we will be about our obedience. The constraints of God's love and grace are more powerful to the regenerate, than the terrors of His Law. "How precious is Your unfailing love, O God!" (Psalm 36:7).
Second, a sense of this divine perfection strengthens our faith, and promotes confidence in God.
Third, it should stimulate the spirit of worship. "Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You (Psalm 63:3; cf 138:2).
Fourth, it should be our cordial when downcast. "Let ... Your merciful kindness be for my comfort" (Psalm 119:76). It was so with Christ in His anguish (Psalm 69:17).
Fifth, it should be our plea in prayer, "Quicken me, O Lord, according to Your loving-kindness" (Psalm 119:159). David applied to that divine attribute for new strength and increased vigor.
Sixth, we should appeal to it when we have fallen by the wayside. "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness" (Psalm 51:1). Deal with him according to the gentlest of Your attributes, make my case an exemplification of Your tenderness.
Seventh, it should be a petition in our evening devotions. "Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning" (Psalm 143:8). Arouse me with my soul in tune therewith, let my waking thoughts be of Your goodness.