by Rich Robinson | October 29 2015
In one Bible translation, we find “steadfast love” and “loyalty.” In another, we find “mercy,” “kindness,” “goodness” and “lovingkindness.” Which Hebrew word is rendered in all these different ways? It is “chesed,” (pronounced kheh-sed) which is found some 249 times in the Old Testament. Most often, we encounter chesed in the Psalms—26 times in Psalm 136 alone! You might recall the familiar refrain from that wonderful Psalm of thanksgiving: “For His lovingkindness (chesed) endures forever.”
One dictionary renders chesed as “unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship.”1 Since the word is often used in the context of a covenant, it has been suggested that chesed also can be translated as “covenant love”—meaning the faithfulness required by the covenant.
You might say that chesed “lives” on a two-way street, as something which God certainly shows to His people, but also desires for us to give back to Him, as well as to one another.
Thank God for His chesed, because:
And also because
Of course, God’s people don’t always give Him His due. In Jeremiah 2:2, God recalls the earlier devotion of Israel (His covenant people), also likening it to a marriage covenant: “I remember you, the kindness (chesed) of your youth, the love of your betrothal…”
But while we human beings often fail in showing chesed, God never does. Rather, His response to Israel’s failure, and to the failure of the human race, was the greatest act of chesed of all time. He sent His son, Jesus, to atone for our sin.
All believers in Jesus are under the New Covenant predicted in Jeremiah 31:31ff. That means all believers in Jesus have become “covenant people” and recipients of God’s chesed. God desires that we reciprocate His loyal love as well as showing chesed to one another.
Thanksgiving is a good time to think about God’s chesed, to thank Him for it, and to look for ways to show it to others.
If this “taste” of chesed made you hungry for more, consider doing your own word study with a concordance or Bible dictionary. Chesed is so often used with other attributes of God that display His mercy, His grace and His compassion—reading the Scriptures that highlight God’s character and qualities can be a real faith builder.
1. Kohlenberger/Mounce Concise Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament, eds. J. R. Kohlenberger and W. D. Mounce (electronic version 2.4, Accordance Bible program), see entry (chesed).