14 November 2022

Psalm 143: 'God’s unfailing love transforms us'

Captain Rob Westwood-Payne

Captain Rob Westwood-Payne describes the extent of God’s love.

Key text

Have you ever used a redundant phrase? Something like ‘an unexpected surprise’, without stopping to realise that all surprises are unexpected.

Pause and reflect

  • Can you think of any other redundant phrases?
  • In Psalm 143 the psalmist speaks of the Lord’s ‘unfailing love’. Isn’t that another redundant phrase? Surely true love can only ever be unfailing?

Perhaps the psalmist chooses the phrase because only God can love with unfailing love. Our love fails too often. It is just as well our loving relationship with God does not depend on our love as much as on God’s unfailing love.

The opening lines of Psalm 143 examine our love for God compared with his love for us, and point to the fact that God’s love is the decisive one: ‘Lord hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgement, for no one living is righteous before you’ (vv1 and 2).

The fact that we are in relationship with God at all is a testament to God’s unfailing love – his faithfulness and righteousness – not to ours. It is God’s unfailing love that ensures he always does the right thing and is always faithful. The supreme expression of God’s unfailing love is him sending his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us. All we can do in response is to give him our sin and show our willingness to trust in Jesus.

Pause and reflect

  • How would you describe God’s unfailing love?

It’s difficult, isn’t it? Elsewhere, the psalmist describes it like this: ‘God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, his purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks’ (Psalm 36:5 and 6 The Message).

A photo of someone standing on a balcony in a city with their arms outstretched facing the sunshine

Psalm 143:8

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.

Read the passage

Much later, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul prays his readers would experience and understand God’s love, unique in its width, length, height and depth (see Ephesians 3:18). It’s incredible! It’s beyond description that we are recipients of an unfailing love.

Pause and reflect

  • Do we find it difficult to sustain our confidence in God? Why?

In response to this unfailing love, the psalmist wants to hear God’s word: ‘Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life’ (v8).

God’s word reminds him of God’s unfailing love. It strengthens his faith. It gives him guidance on the dangerous path he is taking.

The psalmist also longs for God’s protection: ‘Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you’ (v9). He recognises God is his Rock. He can hide in God and be safe from his enemy.

Knowing that God loves him with unfailing love gives him confidence to ask for knowledge of God’s will: ‘Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground’ (v10).

He trusts that God’s good Spirit – what a wonderfully warm, loving phrase! – will teach him from the word and show him the path he should take. This is what gives him confidence in the difficulties he faces.

Pause and reflect

  • How do we respond when God reminds us that we are still sinners dependent on his unfailing love?

Like the psalmist, we discover that God’s unfailing love transforms us. As we live in relationship with our unfailing, loving God, we slowly realise that he hears our prayers, takes our concerns seriously and provides for our needs. It gives us the ‘covenant confidence’ we need to begin to love others in ways that more closely resemble God’s unfailing love towards us.

Paul describes what that looks like: ‘Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last for ever!’ (1 Corinthians 13:4–8 New Living Translation).

This is unfailing love. It’s amazing love, it comes from God, and it transforms us moment by moment and day by day.

Pause and reflect

  • In what ways does our love for others reflect God’s unfailing love to us?

Bible study by

A photo of Rob Westwood-Payne in Salvation Army uniform

Captain Rob Westwood-Payne

Maidenhead, Corps Officer

Let's pray

Father God, with each new day, we are made aware of your unfailing love. We pray for strength, guidance and wisdom in all we do. May we walk close to you and feel the power of your sustaining love.


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