7 Powerful Psalms That Teach Us about Love
Love is important to Christianity because love defines it. God is love, and Christ Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the greatest expression of that love.
Love is mentioned 168 times in the English Standard Version of the Book of Psalms. Many of the Psalms were written by King David, a man after God’s own heart, and from whose line Jesus descended. The inspired Word of God teaches us the importance of love throughout the entire Bible, as the story of Jesus unfolds from the beginning to the end of Scripture. John tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). The Psalms are a poetic expression of worship. God’s Word is powerful, and we are made to give glory to Him and proclaim His love.
Here Are 7 Psalms That Teach Us about Love:
1. Psalm 51 – Love Forgives
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” Psalm 51:1-2 ESV
Written by David after Nathan the prophet confronted him concerning his affair with Bathsheba, David pleaded to God to for forgiveness and mercy for his sins. God’s is motivated by His love for us over His wrath and anger. God is love. Psalm 51 expresses David’s struggle with strongholds of sin. He opened His heart to God, modeling a pleading to the Father in confession of our sins. “Psalms is one of the most practical books in the Bible,” Ligonier Ministries explains. We all fall short, every day. We do what we hate! (Romans 3:23, Rom. 7:15).
David ran to God with his sin, confessed and turned from it. We must do the same. We cannot outrun all of sin’s consequences, nor the effect it has upon this earth. But through Christ, who is the very expression of God’s love for us, we can be forgiven and free when we confess and repent. God’s love covers us in forgiveness. We can choose to abide in the love of Christ and live our lives free and to the full. David’s outpouring of emotion to God in Psalm 51 teaches us love forgives. We don’t have to pretend in the presence of God. He knows. We can lay our burdens, our sins, and our sorrow at His feet. His love is more powerful than all of it. Christ followers are called to reciprocate God’s love, as we can lend the same forgiveness we have been given to others.
2. Psalm 139 – Love Is Compassionate
“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out the path an dry lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-3 ESV
We are known by God, and He loves us! He created us specifically, intimately, and purposefully. He knows each one of us better than we know ourselves. He is the only One able to see through the complex mine field of human emotion and limited perception to the perfect masterpiece He lovingly created. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” Psalm 139:14 reads. “They are psalms, songs, poetry,” writes Tony Reinke for desiringGod, “They’re musical, and the reason human beings express truth with music and poetry is to awaken and express emotions that fit the truth.”
Love is to wholly and fully accept someone, despite their faults. God not only knows everything about us, every sin and misstep, He knows the potential purpose He has created for us. Our capabilities and the unique traits and talents He’s given us to serve as an extension of His love. Psalm 139 reminds us, God is love, and He formed us with love and care. He lovingly reminds us, through these poetic words, we are loved! When the world attempts to squeeze us into any kind of mold, or tears us down, remember God loves us for who we are, right this moment. Despite the curse of sin and our constant dysfunction, we are loved.
3. Psalm 18 – Love is Powerful
“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:1-3 ESV
Love rescues us. Continually. Psalm 18 teaches us to hold on to Love. He is the One True God, reliable and solid as a rock when everything else crumbles, cracks, and fails us. His love is perfect, and He is powerful. God set for a plan from the very beginning to rescue us, out of His love for us. He created us in His image. We are His children. Love, Christ Jesus, was always the plan of rescue. Though the Psalms were written before Jesus walked the earth, Scripture in its entirety points towards His coming, and His return. God continues to rescue us today, through Christ Jesus. “‘Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love.’ That is what I want every day. I want God to love me in a steadfast moment-by-moment way,” wrote John Piper.
The Psalms reach beyond just the doctrine of Scripture and into the human heart. They speak to the way our hearts are built to release, process and express emotion through creative outlets and praise to God. David wrote Psalm 18 on the day he was delivered from his enemy, King Saul. David recognized God was sovereign over all the decisions and actions on earth. God is always moving, beyond what we can see.
4. Psalm 71 Love Gives Us Hope
“You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.” Psalm 71:20-21 ESV
God’s love is reliable, and His promises are rock-solid. He has never failed to keep a single one or offer rescue to a single soul. Our world shape-shifts, and the chatter threatens to swallow us whole- so we put our hope in God’s love. “David prays that he might never be made ashamed of dependence upon God,” Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary, “With this petition every true believer may come boldly to the throne of grace.”
God is love. Jesus is the perfect expression of that love. Love came to earth and took on human skin in exchange for the glory of heaven! Christ Jesus, Love, is the way the truth and the life. Our way out of trouble and calamity, through the trials and tribulations of this world. Love is the source of our strength. The love of God, the living God, dwells in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. “Much of the hope in the Bible has to do with personal, temporal, and earthly concerns,” the Encyclopedia of The Bible explains, “Much hope in the Bible also has to do with a better adjustment to life and the world individually and collectively. In both these cases, the people’s further hope is often placed in God.” When the comforts, people, achievements, and so forth are removed from our lives, Psalm 71 reminds us our hope is in the Love of the Lord.
5. Psalm 100 – Love is Steadfast
“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:5 ESV
Human commitments are fallible, but God’s promises are true, to the end of the age. Psalm 110 reminds us of the command to serve God joyfully, gladly! God’s love produces joy and peace in us that cannot be shaken by worldly trauma and change, lest we allow it. We attach a negative connotation to serving, a “have to” mentality. When it comes to the Kingdom of God, we adopt a “get to” demeanor. A joy and a peace that isn’t giddy skipping down the lane serving Christ, but a steadfast state built upon a rock-solid foundation of God’s love.
Psalm 110 teaches us to praise God, because of who He is and His steadfast love for us! Love compels us to praise the Author of our souls. God’s committed love for us drives our very being, and our souls long to sing praises to Him! “For the LORD is good;” the New American Standard Version reads, “His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” Lovingkindness, in the original Hebrew text, means goodness, kindness and faithfulness. Whose character can consistently commit to the combination of those characteristics, and so much more, but our great God?
6. Psalm 22 – Love Teaches Trust
“He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Psalm 22:8 ESV
Psalm 22 teaches about love through suffering. Though written before Jesus walked to the cross to die for our sins, we are reminded of our Savior and His sacrifice through these prophetic verses. What kind of love chooses to suffer like this? “Not only do the Psalms help shape our response to God in the trials and joys of life, then,” wrote L. Michael Morales, “but they also reveal to us something of the inner life of Jesus Christ, glimpses we do not have through the Gospels alone.”
Love is much more than the feeling we assign it on earth when we describe our favorite food or material things, the ones we love, and even the love of our lives. Love is much more far-reaching. Jesus teaches us, as the words in Psalm 22 remind, love walks alongside us in suffering. He relates to our suffering. He has felt the sting of physical pain, rejection, injustice, desertion, isolation, and death. He took it all on, for us. Out of love. On this earth, when we are at a loss, hurting so deeply we cannot even express it properly, Jesus empathizes with us. God knows. His love reaches into the very fabric of who we are to comfort us with who He is. Love teaches us to trust our Savior empathizes with our pain and will walk with us through it.
7. Psalm 86 – Love Is Patient
“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15 ESV
God’s love is unchanging. Many times, throughout the Psalms, the word steadfast is used. When a marriage endures decades upon decades, we consider the patient love that has brought them through the many years of ups and downs. God’s love surpasses the longevity of human love and earthly life. He is, was, and always will be. “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” Moses wrote, of God’s revelations to him. (Exodus 34:6)
Steadfast is being “fixed in direction; steadily directed, dictionary.com defines, “firm in purpose, resolution, faith, and attachment.” The New American Standard Bible translates steadfast love as lovingkindness. Goodness, kindness, and faithfulness are the Lord’s resolute purpose and promise in our lives. Psalm 86 teaches us God’s love is greater than His anger. His mercy and graciousness reign. His love is patient.
Why Is Love So Important in Christianity?
Love is important to Christianity because love defines it. God is love, and Christ Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the greatest expression of that love. We are commanded to love others as we have been loved, specifically to forgive as we have been forgiven out of the Father’s great love for us. Far beyond a feeling, biblical love defines who and Whose we are. The source of Christian love is Christ, Himself. Love that dwells in us because of the Holy Spirit living in us. Love isn’t just important to Christianity. Love is Christianity. To love is to follow Christ.