The Loyal-Love of God

The Loyal-Love of God

 

In the Hebrew Scripture, there is a special word used for the love of God: Hesed.

The 'H' is a hard consonant, having a 'K' sound, so the word is sometimes written 'chesed' - with the pronunciation of kheh'-sed given by James Strong (1890).

This unique word is used 247x in the Old Testament and is variously translated "mercy," "kindness," "goodness," "favour," and "lovingkindness" in the KJV. This last compound word seems to have been invented specifically by the KJV translators in attempt to more fully express this attribute of Yahweh God. The ESV translators most often render chesed as "steadfast love." (Emphasis here helpful for later reference).

 

Grasping this divine trait is crucial to enjoying the fullness of covenant relationship with Yahweh. By this descriptive quality, our God is showing us something very important about Himself. Understanding this point will enable us to appreciate and cooperate with a patient and persistent Father as His dearly loved children.

 

Let's take a look at a few of the occurrences of this significant word.

 

This is how Yahweh presented Himself in covenant to Israel through Moses:

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." (Exo 34:6-7 ESV)

 

God makes a unique covenant with David, including these words about his son:

"but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you." (2Sa 7:15 ESV)

Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever. (Psa 18:50 ESV)

 

So, chesed is used 127x in the Psalms. A few more of these instances follow.

The psalmist knows he can find deliverance and refuge in the Almighty - who always proves His steadfast love.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psa 23:6 ESV)

We might note that "follow" is elsewhere rendered "run after, chase down, hunt, pursue." David is sure that Yahweh's goodness will constantly hunt him down and catch him.

 

Psalm 107 cries out to the purchased people to recognize and praise their God for His marvelous goodness to them.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! (Psa 107:8 / & v 15, 21, 31 ESV)

Psalms 136 repeats this phrase in every line, because their Creator, Redeemer, and King has demonstrated His goodness by all His great works.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

(Psa 136:1 ESV)

 

The prophets also assure the forlorn captives of Israel that their God has not given up on them. They, in turn, must not break faith with Him.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23 ESV)

For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. (Lam 3:31-33 ESV)

 

Even though our chesed is like the morning dew that evaporates into thin air...

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. (Hos 6:4 ESV)

 

Yet true chesed is Yahweh's very own nature and precisely what He wants from us:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8 ESV)

 

This is truly a divine attribute -- to constantly forgive offenses and restore His people.

 

One man started a website with the name 'hesed.com.' On its single clean white page he has written:

"I consider the following to be a good, working definition of hesed: the consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly-pursuing, lavish, extravagant, unrestrained, furious love of our Father God!" (Frank Johnson)

 

We must ask, "Is chesed a part of the New Covenant? Is the word or its manifestation seen there for us?"

It shouldn't disappoint us that the Hebrew word is not used by the Greek writers of the New Testament. But, the Greek version of the Old Scripture, the Septagint, in the place of chesed uses the word 'eleos' for 'mercy.'

 

While visiting her relative Elizabeth, Mary refers to this divine quality in her jubilant praise:

And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. (Luk 1:50 ESV)

If this sounds familiar, it should. Mary's declaration is a summary of Yahweh's self-description to Moses in Exodus 20:6 & 34:6,7.

And Zechariah claims this as the way God is now fulfilling His covenant promises:

"...to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant" (Luk 1:72 & v78 ESV)

 

Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 and adds commentary on His great purpose for visiting us:

Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mat 9:13 ESV)

He quotes it again, saying this attribute would keep us from making false judgments:

And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Mat 12:7 ESV)

 

In the Lord's story of the Good Samaritan, the law expert saw who was the true neighbor:

He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." (Luk 10:37 ESV)

 

Paul turns his defense of the gospel on the Sovereignty of the Divine Will:

For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (Rom 9:15 ESV -- also vs 16,18,23)

If showing mercy is God's business, then only He can say how He will show it.

And, we are all -- each and every one of us - equally 'at His mercy:'

For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. (Rom 11:32)

 

Paul pronounces a priestly blessing on those who as God's chosen nation truly accept Jesus as His Annointed (Messiah):

And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal 6:16 ESV)

 

Paul expounds that our justification in Christ flows from God's rich, merciful love:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- (Eph 2:4-5 ESV)

 

And that God demonstrates his love in common ways, as when He heals our friends of illness:

Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (Php 2:27 ESV)

 

The Hebrew writer encourages us to make our bold approach to the divine throne of grace -- the "mercy seat:"

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:16 ESV)

 

And James urges us to share in this holy quality of mercy, so that we also may receive it from God:

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (Jas 2:13 ESV)

Could true, heavenly wisdom be based on the reflection of God's character?

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (Jas 3:17 ESV)

 

Peter writes that we are the fulfillment of Hosea's living parable (1:9-10 / 2:23), the people upon whom God has lavished his great compassionate mercy:

Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1Pe 2:10 ESV)

 

So, just exactly what are we meant to learn about Yahweh our covenant God from this marvelous attribute of chesed?

notes by David Teel Saturday, November 09, 2013




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