Yesterday we looked at the word good. We studied 1 Chronicles 16:34 O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good… ” and learned that good is not an adjective describing God but it is who He is (see yesterdays post entitled “Goodness“). Good and God are the same thing… they are a single idea. He is good! And He can’t be anything but good to you!
The rest of that scripture says “for His mercy (lovingkindness) endures forever”. The word mercy is not an accurate translation. Translators use words like kindness, loving-kindness, mercy, loyalty, steadfast love, and graciousness because there really isn’t a proper English word that encapsulates the meaning of this word. Perhaps loyal love is close. Hebrew has a word for this loyal love that is richer and deeper than anything in English—it is chesed (KHEH-sed). It is a covenant word that goes beyond the requirements of mere duty and obligation…..it is a love that WILL NOT let me go! It is from the root word chacad, which is to be good or kind….”to bow down.” It is a picture here of God coming down to where we are (in the person of Jesus) and providing us the Way of Salvation! It truly is covenant love an immovable, unshakable, unchanging loyalty to His covenant with us.
We also quoted Ps 23:6 yesterday “Surely goodness and lovingkindness (chesed) will follow me all the days of my life…. goodness and chesed (God’s loyalty to His covenant) will follow me ALL the days of my life. The word”surely” is set as a seal upon it… it’s guaranteed… a done deal! It doesn’t depend on what I do or don’t do… I can add nothing of myself to it.
Psalm 107:1 is the same verse as 1 Chronicles 16:34 (above) and the same word chesed is used. Psalm 136 is another identical scripture….again the word used is chesed although our English uses the translation mercy. I like Psalm 136 in the Complete Jewish Bible translation (you can go to bible gateway.com to read it)…. this translation always translates chesed as grace, not just in this Psalm only.
One of the earliest usages of chesed is by Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, when he was sent to find a wife for Isaac. He realized that his success was because of the Father’s chesed (translated “kindness” in Genesis 24:12) God’s covenant loyalty to his master Abraham.
Moses used this term to show why God delivered Israel from captivity in Egypt…. because of covenant loyalty (chesed). “You in Your mercy (chesed) have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation” (Exodus 15:13). In Ex 34:5-8 after God gives Moses the Tablets, He descended in a cloud and stood before him proclaiming who He is… verse 6 translates chesed as abounding in goodness! He abounds in covenant loyalty towards us. We see a similar statement in John 1:17 “grace (charis) and truth (reality) came through Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the manifestation and the reality of grace and truth… of chesed (covenant loyalty). Thus we see the connection between the Hebrew word chesed (translated here as “goodness”) and the Greek charis, meaning “grace.”
Ps 117 says Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his loving kindness (chesed) toward us, and the faithfulness (truth) of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!…..The CJB translation says in verse 2… For his grace has overcome us, and Adonai’s truth continues forever. Grace and truth! Jesus came full of grace and truth….this had always been His character and by extension the character of His Father.
Chesed is covenant word …. it is the OT equivalent of the NT word charis which is “grace.” Sometimes we view the Old Testament (Judaism) as a religion of laws and the New Testament (Christianity) as a religion of grace. God extended his grace in both Testaments… both Covenants. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He revealed his grace to the fullest in the New Testament coming of Jesus (John 1:16-17 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace…….grace and truth came through Jesus Christ) but His grace is also displayed throughout Old Testament Scriptures
Chesed is definitely a word that begs for a deeper study than we can give to this one blog post. Now that I know it is the equivalent of NT grace, it will change how I read scriptures and it will definitely cause me to do a deeper study of it. I hope it sparked you to do a deeper study as well. Hosea 6:6 says that God desires chesed (covenant loyalty) not sacrifice, and He desires the knowledge of Him (yada – intimate knowing as in a husband and wife) not burnt offerings. That reminds me of Paul’s words in Phil 3:10 that I may know (ginosko in Greek – the equivalent of the Hebrew word yada) Him and the power of His resurrection. By going deeper, drawing nearer to Him… knowing Him more intimately… only then can I fully understand chesed.
God’s grace is a given that is always being given! There is nothing you can do to earn or merit His grace. It is given because of chesed… His covenant loyalty toward us…. HIS LOVE THAT WILL NOT LET US GO!