Psalm 149:4 For the Lord takes delight in his people;
he crowns the humble with salvation.
I was surprised to read the Japanese of this verse just now, because it says, “The Lord loves His people.” I checked various English translations, but they all said “delights in” or “takes pleasure in.” I guess that says more about the nuance of “love” in Japanese than it does about the original Hebrew. All of those words certainly apply to God’s attitude toward us, but agape love is far deeper than pleasure and enjoyment. Americans might understand the Japanese use of “beloved dog” for a pet, but they would probably balk at the use of “beloved car” for your personal automobile. That obviously presents some problems for teaching that “God is love!” The translation of the second half of the verse presents a familiar spread of terms: humble, poor, meek. The verb also sees some variety: crown, beautify, adorn. However, those differences don’t cause any major conflict in understanding. The whole point is that God is happy about us, and He does really good stuff for us when we recognize that we are dependent on Him. That’s something for us to be happy about!
I deal with the issue of the Japanese understanding of love a good bit. I do quite a few weddings, so naturally I talk about agape love in the ceremony and I talk about practical applications of it in premarital counseling. Frankly, for many people that’s a real eye-opener. The average Japanese man may never say, “I love you,” to his wife. The closest he might come is to say, “I like you.” Recently that has been shifting with the younger generation, so that I don’t get so such resistance when I tell men their wife needs to hear them express affection verbally. Many wives would be happy to hear even, “I like you,” occasionally! People are obviously deeply impressed by the affection they see expressed between my wife and me, both verbally and in such basic things as respect and consideration. We need God’s wisdom to help them understand that such love is possible because we have accepted God’s love for us, and that love is equally available to them.
Well, Father, I certainly didn’t expect to write on this topic from this Psalm! Thank You for speaking to me in unexpected ways. Help me recognize what You are saying to me all the time, whether it’s something I expect or not. Help me be an accurate, faithful demonstration of Your love, Your character, at all times, so that as many as possible may repent and believe, receiving Your love for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!