KEY THOT: The key word in Psalm 36 is “steadfast love” (ESV) or “love” (NIV) from the Hebrew word checed (pronounced as “khehsed”), used 240 times in the OT. It is the most important word in the OT theology as it speaks of God’s covenantal love for Israel. It is rich word with many possible meanings: “loving-kindness; steadfast love; grace; mercy; faithfulness; goodness; devotion” (Vine’s). It is almost always translated in the Greek OT (LXX) as eleos (mercy). though NT writers prefer to use charis (grace) to describe God’s checed.
However, checed has three basic meanings: strength, steadfastness and love. If God’s love is without strength, then it becomes mere sentimentality. But if it is just strength or steadfastness, then it suggests a fulfillment of legal obligation. But because it has all three elements, checed is God’s love that has no limit because it carries the idea of faithfulness: “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (v.5).
Like marital love, checed is not just a fulfillment of the basic obligations of the marital covenant—it often goes beyond the covental obligations. God does not love because He has to; He loves because He wants to.
God’s love is characterized by strength (power): Some Christians shy away from speaking of God in terms of power. They feel that "power" is triumphalist and therefore imposing on others. But if God is not powerful, He cannot be our Saviour, for the enemies of God are real evil surrounded by demonic powers. There is a real evil power in this world and God's love must be powerful to deliver us from such evil power. God’s checed is no mere sentimentality: it has power to impose His will on earth as it is in heaven. It guarantees victory and life to those who serves him: "For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light" (v.9). For people who lives under the power of death and darkness, they need a love that is more than just nice talk--they need a love that has power to give life for death, light for darkness.
God’s checed is also characterized by steadfastness (faithfulness): As long as we stay within His will, He love remains steadfast. But if we stray away and deliberately rebel against His purpose and will, we cannot insist that God remains faithful to us: “if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:12-13). God’s steadfast love is towards those who do not deny him but endure to the end.
Father, we thank You that Your steadfast love extends to the heavens and Your faithfulness to the clouds, for it knows no limit. Help us to respond in faithfulness and steadfastness to You so that we can demonstrate this steadfast love to others. Amen.