Chesed

Yesterday we considered several passages of Scripture that demonstrate the faithfulness of God and His unfailing love and presence in our lives. Today I would like for you to consider the word “chesed” which is often translated as lovingkindness.

Here are some notes from A Theological Word Book of the Bible on the word “chesed.”

It is important to realize that though the Hebrew chesed can be translated by loving-kindness and mercy without doing violence to the context, yet we must always beware lest we think that God is content with less than righteousness. There is no reference to any sentimental kindness, and no suggestion of mercy apart from repentance, in any case where the Hebrew original is chesed. His demand for righteousness is insistent, and it is always at the maximum intensity. The loving-kindness of God means that his mercy is greater even than that. The word chesed stands for the wonder of his unfailing love for the people of his choice, and the solving of the problem of the relation between his righteousness and his loving-kindness passes beyond human comprehension.

The word is used to contrast man and God.

  • Isaiah 40:6 – Isaiah used chesed (“loveliness”) in the context of man’s lack of steadfastness or strength. The prophet is contrasting man’s frailty with God’s steadfast reliability.
  • Hosea 6:4 – Israel’s chesed was like the morning cloud which goes away. ‘as the morning cloud, and as the dew that goeth early away,’ a regular feature of the Palestinian climate when once the spring rains are past.

God’s loving-kindness is that sure love which will not let Israel go. Not all Israel’s persistent waywardness could ever destroy it. Though Israel be faithless, yet God remains faithful still. This steady, persistent refusal of God to wash his hands of wayward Israel is the essential meaning of the Hebrew word which is translated loving-kindness.

In light of these thoughts about the “chesed,” the unfailing lovingkindness God, let us pray for God’s “chesed” to be a part of our marriages. May we as men love our wives “just as” Jesus loved us, and may that unfailing lovingkindness flow from our hearts and souls toward our wives.

Interesting thought, when I type “lovingkindness,” it gets underlined in red because it is not part of the dictionary on this program. This term lovingkindness is not familiar to it, but may that not be the case for us in our marriages. Hopefully lovingkindness is part of our “program,” deeply embedded within our souls.

Plumbing Depth of God’s Love–Hold the Line

6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You, In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters, They shall not come near him. 7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. 9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you. 10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (Psalm 32:6-11 NKJV)

Today our discussion comes to a conclusion. We have covered a lot of ground and I am thankful to God that He provides us His word to study, discuss, and apply to our lives through reading it, studying it, meditating on it, discussing it and praying it. Here is a synopsis and checklist of sorts concerning the last verses of Psalm 32.

  • Pray: Seek the Lord! That means you must be talking to God at all times. Those conversations you are having in your own head…have them with God. Those conversations you wish you could have with those who mean the most to you…have them with God. Your groaning from physical, emotional, spiritual pain…give it to God. He is listening, reaching and waiting to lift off that what burdens you.
  • Now: Our days and lives are made up of individual moments. Though the moments might pile up on us and move so fast we don’t think there is time to take a pause…don’t be fooled. Now is the moment to seek out God. Have a sense of urgency in your prayer and service to God…remember He is who you need most.
  • Be secure: God will protect you. David is not saying you won’t have troubles but that God can get you through those troubles. Your pain and suffering is an ever-present reminder you need God, He will help you and you cannot hide or try to fix your sins, relationships, lives…alone.
  • God will not forsake you: We see this throughout scripture. In the verses above, God is speaking in 8-11 and He has an awesome way of encouraging us…just read, listen and hide His words in your heart.
  • God will lead you: What an awesome Shephard we have…follow Jesus and you will be able to shepherd those in your life. God promises to counsel you with His eye always on you. What a beautiful promise from the mouth of the Lord! God is watching you. He has his eye on you.
  • Trust in Him and Let Go: Don’t be stubborn like horses and mules who need to be driven in the right direction. It will not work. God does not force us to go the way we ought to go. God is a God of freedom…not limits…He doesn’t want you to be bridled and driven…but to be freed from your sins so you can be free to love others…God will point to the proper path and you must choose to follow His direction.
  • He will immerse you in His mercy!
  • You will be blessed and rejoice!
  • Be righteous!
  • Be upright!
  • Praise God!

The steadfast love of the Lord surrounds those who trust in the Him. Which would you rather have in life: the many sorrows of the wicked or the steadfast love of the Lord? The answer is obvious, but to have the steadfast love of the Lord then we must put our trust in Him. We must completely submit our lives to God. In the context of this Psalm, we must openly confess our sins to God and thank the Lord that our transgressions are forgiven, our sins are covered, and our iniquities are not counted.

Those most important to us as men are counting on that…need that. No other man can fulfill the role given to you and no other man can do for your wife, children, friends, co-workers, etc. what they most need from you. Hold the line brothers!

You have had pity on the plant

Then God said to Jonah…”You have had pity on the plant…”  (Jonah 4:10).

I encourage you today to read Jonah 4 today. Jonah was angry, really angry. He was angry because he knew God was gracious and merciful. God showed mercy on the city of Nineveh and forgave them because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. Even though Jonah preached to them, he really didn’t care about the salvation of the souls of Nineveh. He preached in anticipation that this effort would fail. Nineveh would reject God and God would toast them.

Read the last verse of chapter 3 and the first verse of chapter 4. God relented because Nineveh repented and Jonah vented. Jonah went outside of the city in verse 4 and waited in eager anticipation of God raining down judgment and destruction upon Nineveh (Jonah 4:5).

Notice the mercy that God had upon Jonah, while at the same time teaching a critical lesson. God prepared a plant to grow up and shade Jonah “to deliver him from his misery” (Jonah 4:6). Jonah was very grateful. Next, God sent a worm to destroy the plant. Then God brings a “vehement east wind” and the sun “beat on Jonah’s head” (Jonah 4:8).

All Jonah wants to do now is die. Now Jonah is really ticked off. This provides one of those “teachable moments.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left–and much livestock? (Jonah 4:9-11).

You have had pity on the plant

This being Wednesday, our focus is on parenting. I want to take this concept and apply it to parenting. As a Father, God was parenting Jonah. There are some valuable lessons to learn here in parenting.

Our children sometimes will care more about the plant, which creates teachable moments. They will get really upset about something, like a sibling borrowed a shirt without asking. Justice must be administered! It is times like that that we can help direct them to areas where they really should focus their passion. We are there to help them gain some “perspective.” Jonah cared more for a stupid plant than he did for 120,000 souls. Andy Harrison wrote an article recently about “Misplaced Compassion,” and today’s article connects well with it.

We must show mercy to our kids at those times, like God showed Jonah. I mentioned in Monday’s article about a sermon that Mike Sullivan preached recently. He made a point that Jesus was not self-righteous about the self-righteous. Jesus ate with the Pharisees, too. He loved them and wanted desperately for them to understand His grace and mercy. As we see the hypocrisy and double-standard in our kids, we must remember God and Jonah. God kept teaching Jonah and showing mercy to Jonah, too.

Do You See This Woman?

Yesterday, Anna and I heard an incredible sermon by brother Mike Sullivan in Lafayette, Indiana. Mike’s sermon came from Luke 7:36:50 which is the account of the sinful woman, Jesus and Simon the Pharisee. I don’t believe the sermon audio is available yet, but here is the link for the church’s sermon page for you to check later. This question of Jesus, “Do you see this woman?” is a question that would serve us well to consider.

For today, please take a few minutes to read Luke 7:36-50. Meditate upon what the Holy Spirit says here in the text. As you read it, think about two of the questions that Mike asked the congregation to consider:

  1. Are you more like Jesus or Simon the Pharisee? How Jesus saw this woman was light years away from how Simon the Pharisee saw this woman. Simon saw a woman who disgusted him. Jesus saw a sinner who was deeply overwhelmed with gratitude and love because of His grace, mercy and forgiveness. Both men saw her sins, even Jesus said, “they are many,” (Luke 6:47). However, the two men saw her and her sins from completely different perspectives.
  2. Are you more like the sinful woman or more like Simon the Pharisee? Simon saw in himself very little need for mercy from Jesus because he was self-righteous. The sinful woman clearly understood that she was unrighteous and in desperate need of the grace of Jesus. Mike made the observation that how we view the grace and mercy of Jesus is directly correlated to our love and devotion to Jesus. She “loved much” because she understood how much Jesus loved her first (Luke 6:47; 1 John 4:19).

Do You See This Woman?

A final thought for this morning comes back to one of the questions Jesus asked Simon the Pharisee. “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 6:44). Think of how Simon initially saw the woman. Sinful. Disgusting. Shameful. Inappropriate behavior in his house. Now think about how Jesus wanted Simon to see the woman upon second look. Also, consider how Jesus wanted Simon to see himself.

This is critical stuff, men. Let’s think about these things today.

Lovingkindness and truth have met together

Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land. Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Psalms 85:9-10).

Take some time to meditate upon Psalm 85 this morning. If God’s salvation is near to those who fear Him, then what qualities of God have to come together? If God only was a God of truth and righteousness, then we all would be hopelessly lost and condemned. Since we have all broken the laws of God, we have nothing to look forward to but punishment and justice.

It may go without saying, but His truth and His standards of righteousness are absolute. This is what defines sin, it is a breaking of the law (1 John 3:4), a violation of truth. The offer of salvation and mercy means nothing if there is no such thing as absolute truth. How could we be guilty of violating any law if there is no such thing as truth to establish laws? As C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” Because God’s truth is asbolute, mankind is absolutely lost because of our wholesale departure from His truth.

Lovingkindness and truth have met together

Thankfully, God’s mercy met together with His truth, and His peace “kissed” righteousness, as the Psalmist wrote. That is such a beautiful concept. Righteousness and peace kissing. God’s mercy walking together with His rules. Our Lord looks upon us all and seeks to offer kindness and compassion, even though we all have broken His laws and forsaken His truth. He reached out to us through Jesus and the cross to be reconciled to us.

Let us give glory to God first and foremost for this indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)!

But then, we must turn to our fellow man and ask if we are behaving like that to others? Are we all about the rules, with no mercy or does mercy walk with the rules in my heart? Have God’s standards kissed God’s peace in my life? Am I eager to reconcile with others or I am eager to deal out condemnation and judgment? It shows in how we treat others, doesn’t it?

Maybe God’s mercy needs to take a walk with the truth in our hearts today. We might need to take God’s rules out on a date with God’s compassion. They need to get to know each other better.

He considered me faithful

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service… (1 Timothy 1:12).

Last night, our congregation heard a great short talk from 1 Timothy 1:12 which focused on Paul’s thankfulness to God for being able to serve. Paul was thankful not only to serve God, but also to serve others. Thank you, Nathan, for that lesson!

As I was thinking about that wonderful concept last night, I began thinking of another thing from verse 12. God considered Paul faithful. If you know nothing about his previous life, then this statement is not all that impressive. However, when you read further, you see Paul describe his previous way of living in comparison to God’s abundant mercy.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.  (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

He considered me faithful

Paul’s former life is self-described as blasphemous and violently aggressive in persecuting God’s people. How on earth could God consider such a one to be “faithful” after living a life like that? Yet, God did this very thing. In another passage, Paul gave glory to God’s mercy that his opinion was considered “trustworthy” by God (1 Cor. 7:25).

Would we consider Paul to be “faithful” after knowing his attitude and behavior toward God and His people? Would we even want to hear anything Paul had to say? How can we look past the fact that Paul did every thing in his power to hurt Christians (Acts 26:9-11)? He “breathed out threats and murder” towards them (Acts 9:1)!

You see, Jesus demonstrates through Paul an example of His abundant mercy. This is God’s pattern on display for all time. God is merciful…abundantly merciful. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, anyone can be forgiven who comes to the cross. No matter what you or I have done, we can through God’s mercy be counted faithful. That guy at work whom we think would be the last person in the world to become a Christian…well, remember Paul.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Beatitudes, Part 6

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

We continue our Monday series on the Beatitudes. Today is about being merciful and receiving mercy.

What is mercy? I have heard it described as “not giving someone what they deserve.” That is certainly part of it.  God had mercy on us when He laid on Jesus the penalty that we rightly deserved (Isaiah 53:6; Galatians 3:13). Paul said he “obtained mercy” from God, even though he was the “chief” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:13,16).

Another aspect of this word mercy, according to Vincent’s Word Studies, carries with it “the sense of human wretchedness coupled with the impulse to relieve it.” Repeatedly, this word “mercy” is used in the ministry of Jesus when people suffering in various ways cried out to Jesus, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” And He did.

What precedes mercy? Look at Ephesians 2:4-5 and see what character quality leads to having mercy on others.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”

How could a just and holy God look upon such wretchedness and wickedness which defines the human condition (Ephesians 2:1-3) and have mercy? Paul said it was “because of His great love.” Love precedes mercy. Without love, you can have no mercy. Love drives God to find a way to remove the misery of our condition. Love drives God’s compassion.

Men, consider how great of a love the Father has for you, and how much mercy God has showered upon you. Meditate upon it today. Pray about it, thank God and praise Him for “His abundant mercy” (1 Peter 1:3).

Next, pray that His love will fill your heart, so that you will also show this same compassion and mercy upon others in your life. When you look upon the physical suffering of others, have compassion…Jesus did. When you look upon the sins of others, even when those sins have personally hurt you deeply, have mercy, that’s what God did for you. We still have to confront the sins of others, but God’s mercy should fill our hearts as we do so.

If you and I want to receive mercy from Jesus, then we must first be merciful to others. If you want to study this further, look at all of the following passages which teach that those who are unmerciful and unforgiving will be shown the same treatment by a righteous and just God (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35; Mark 11:25-26; Ephesians 4:32; James 2:13; 1 Peter 3:7).

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)