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Psalms Of Kindness

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Kindness has been taken to mean genuine caring or an action of goodwill. It is often employed in association with showing tenderness or caring. Kindness occurs in several scriptural texts. Interestingly, a biblical account dealing with Israel’s departure from Egypt shows that the Jewish people were not very kind as they left behind their experience of being held captive. As the psalmist points out,

When our fathers were in Egypt
they gave no thought to your miracles;

they did not remember your many kindnesses,
and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.

Yet he saved them for his names’ sake,
to make his mighty power known. (Ps. 106:7-8; cf. vv. 9-12)1

As Futato explains, “They forgot God’s many acts of kindness. They forgot all that he had done for them in the past. They forgot, in particular, his saving grace that had brought them out of Egypt. … That the memory of what God had done did not produce within them the response of obedience.”2

It is somewhat difficult for a person to show kindness when he or she has been treated wrongly or maligned. Yet, the Lord Jesus displayed true kindness as his contemporary kinsmen nailed him to the cross: “Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’” (Lk 23:34). What a consistent testimony Jesus displayed, even as he suffered crucifixion without cause, for being treated this way: “Jesus … addresses God as Father … and asks him to forgive them (the executioners) … on the grounds of their ignorance.”3 Indeed, even in facing a wrongful sentence of death, Jesus displayed the scriptural standard of being kind, whatever the circumstance.

“Kindness” is mentioned twice in Psalm 109. In this rather unusual Psalm, the psalmist asks the Lord to repay the “wicked and deceitful men” with the same sort of evil which they have employed (vv. 6-20). In this Psalm, the psalmist wishes that no one will show “eternal kindness” to a wicked person (v.12) because such a person “never thought of doing kindness” (v. 16). “He charges them on two counts. First, their words are untrustworthy. … Second, the deceptiveness of the wicked comes out of hearts of “hatred” (v. 3).4 Was David returning evil for evil? Not likely. But he does implore God to give them what they deserve.

Such stands in a distinctive contrast to David’s remarks in Psalm 141:5, where he mentions that if he really has done something needing correction, “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil on my head.”

How vastly different are David’s words in the closing verse of Psalm 18, where he concludes his psalm with praise to the Lord:

He gives his king great victories;
He shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
To David, and his descendants forever. (v. 50)

Not only was this true for David, God’s “anointed”, but to David’s descendants. In an interesting comment, Franz Delitzsch adds, “The praise of Jahve, the God of David, His anointed, is, according to his ultimate import, a praising of the Father of Jesus Christ.”5 Such a standard serves as a standard for all believers!

It is of further interest to note the proverbs that speak of kindness. For example, in Proverbs 11:16 (cf. 11:19) we read that “a kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.” How far better than wealth is that which comes from kindness (cf. Pr. 12:16b). Yet, as the psalmist in Psalm 55:22-23 observes, the cares of life can bring sustenance to the righteous, “

But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
Into the pit of corruption;

Bloodthirsty and deceitful men
Will not live out half their days. (v. 23)

May we as believers today be challenged to show kindness in all that we do so that others can see the loving kindness of our Lord and Savior in our lives as we live for Him daily. The hymn writer reminds us that:

In loving kindness Jesus came
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin and shame
Thru grace He lifted me.6

1All scripture reference is from the NIV.

2 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms”, in The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream, Il., Tyndale House, 2009), VII:338.

3 I. Howard Marshall, “Commentary on Luke” in the New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds. I Howard Marshall and W. Ward Gasque (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 867.

4 Willem A. Van Gemeren, “Psalms” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, revised edition, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), V:805.

5 Franz Delitzsch, “Biblical Commentary on the Psalms” 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), I:269.

6 Charles H. Gabriel, “He Lifted Me”.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Devotionals

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