Jesus Loves Me

I stood at the kitchen sink, suds up to my wrists, plugging away at dinner dishes. To my left, my one year old daughter stood at her own toddler size pink kitchen pretending to to be just like Mommy. I grinned at her babbling and swaying pigtails, as she stuck a pretend loaf of bread into her oven. As we both busied ourselves, my daughter’s babble broke out into song. With confidence and gusto, she belted, “Je-sus loooves meee! I know! Biiible so!!!”

Night after night, week after week, month after month, I had sung her the simple song, “Jesus Loves Me.” In her most fussy nights of teething, the simple melody seemed to be the only song that soothed her back to sleep, or possibly the only tune I could remember at two o’clock in the morning. I had no idea, however, she had actually learned the words. I paused amid the soapy water, and listened to her repeat over and over, “Jesus loves me. I know. Bible so.”

The book of Psalms records perhaps the first edition of this familiar children’s chorus. Psalm 136, otherwise known as The Great Hallel Psalm, or song of praise, bellows of Yahweh’s steadfast love toward his children. As the nation of Israel gathered to celebrate Passover, the priest invited the nation to arise, remember and praise Yahweh for his unfailing love throughout each moment of their story.

The priest offered an invitation to remember their history through the lens of praise, saying four times, “Give thanks” (1–3, 26). In a careful look at the text, you will notice the psalmist uses three distinct names for whom they are to offer their thanks, “the Lord” (1), “the God of gods” (2), and “the Lord of lords” (3). These three names, only found one other time in Deut 10:17, refocus the nation’s mind on the One who sustained them with his covenant love. He stands alone in heaven and earth, as the great, mighty and awesome, “I AM” (Ex 3:14).

The psalm continues as the nation sings from the beginning of time in the story of creation, “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever” (Ps 136:4–9). From Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever” (Ps 136:10–16). From the defeat of Israel’s greatest enemies, “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever” (Ps 136:17–24). From the daily physical nourishment they received, “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever” (Ps 136:25).

The Hebrew word for “steadfast love” in Psalm 136 is hesed. English words often fail to fully encompass the height, breadth and depth of hesed (Eph 3:18–19). You will often read it as “steadfast love,” “unfailing love,” “lovingkindness,” or “mercy.” Hesed always refers to Yahweh’s covenant-keeping, loyal love. Simply, hesed demands that Yahweh must keep his promises.

The promise to wipe away tears (Rev 21:4)
The promise to destroy death (Rev 21:4)
The promise to never abandon us (Deut 31:6; Heb 13:5)
The promise to provide hope to the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18)
The promise to guide our steps (Ps 32:8; Prov 16:9)
The promise to avenge wrongdoing (Rom 12:19)

The list of precious promises spans from Genesis to Revelation. Which ones are your favorites?

Comprehending the magnitude of hesed can be difficult, as the majority of us have never experienced love like this from those on earth. Sin flaws every human relationship, no matter how good it might be. Despite even our own best attempts to love well, what we offer remains marred.

God’s hesed love for us, however, knows no flaws. His hesed love is perfect. His hesed love is unconditional, unwavering, unending. His hesed love is for us, not against us. His hesed love endures forever, and is provided daily.

When pain supersedes joy, it can be hard to understand God’s love. When sorrow eclipses comfort, it can be hard to experience God’s love. When tears replace smiles, it can be hard to hear God’s love echo.

The steadfast love of the Lord, however, promises to carry us through the times of life that seem unbearable, just as he did for his children enduring slavery in Egypt. As we live through our days of hardship, it is important to retell our stories through the lens of God’s hesed love. We must sing over and over, “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.”

Here’s a glimpse of what my song of praise might sound like:

Through the lonely years of being a perpetual bridesmaid and never a bride,
The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

Through each passport stamp collected traveling the mountain tops and dark valleys of missionary life,
The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

Through the rigor and exhaustion of seminary,
The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

When the unexpected beautiful gifts of a husband, son, and daughter entered my life,
The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

Through the shocking diagnosis and tragic death of my only sibling,
The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

Through the sudden, gut wrenching death of my mom amid a pandemic,
The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

The stanzas of my song could go on and on. And as I sit to write them, despite all the hard, I must praise him for his unfailing love toward me in each line.

Every night, my daughter and I sing together the beautiful truth of a simple song. Sing with us:

Jesus loves me; this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.

As we sing and recall the daily pieces of our story, may we in time begin to see them with a lens of praise. May we belt at the top of our lungs, amid tears and smiles, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies (hesed) never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23).

!Marnie Legaspi holds a BS in Bible from Lancaster Bible College and her Master of Theology degree in Systematic Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. She has been happily married to God’s most unexpected gift to her, Josué, since 2014. Her great joy is being a full-time mama to their son Judah and daughter Elena Esperanza. Her experiences serving the church as a missionary in Eastern Europe, Africa, and India propel her passion to understand and communicate the gospel of grace to the overlooked and forgotten among us.

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