Psalm 107 begins what is labeled in many Bibles as “Book V” of the Psalms. This book—or collection—of Psalms was most likely assembled upon the Israelites return to the land of Israel at the end of their captivity in Babylon. After 70 years of captivity, the return to Israel was a monumental sign of the Lord to those returning, something that is very rare in all of human history. How many times has a nation that was conquered and dispersed found their way back to their original country and re-formed themselves? So it’s no surprise that the very first Psalm in the final book of the Psalms strongly emphasizes “hesed”—the Hebrew word translated in the NASB as “lovingkindness”.
Human love is almost always expressed by a different word in Hebrew, ”aheb”, which when referring to man’s love for or towards God usually involves obedience. God’s love expressed to man is most often expressed as “hesed”, most closely meaning “lovingkindness”. The closest NT equivalent may be “grace”, but that doesn’t quite get it. “Lovingkindness” is the expression of God’s determination to keep His promises to His chosen people in spite of their sin and rebellion. It’s not an apathetic response to sin, but a deliberate act to bring the sinner back to God. It’s God’s divine mercy and forgiveness toward sinners when repayment of sins through the sacrificial system was no longer effective. “Hesed” is always an expression of love by God to someone with which He has a relationship. The 2 words it’s most closely associated with are “covenant” and “faithfulness”.
Imagine how precious this concept was to a nation thought at one point to be completely destroyed—even dead—only to come back to life and returned to Him both physically and spiritually. Although the returning Israelites experienced spiritual reawakening in their covenant and faithfulness to God, they were painfully aware it was nothing they accomplished on their own but only by His lovingkindness alone.