Thank God for Chesed
For your “Thanksgiving pleasure” here’s a taste of something really good…
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.*” 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:
- like King David, we can cry out to God for forgiveness of sin based on His chesed: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness (chesed); according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1).
- like the prophet Jeremiah, we can be confident in the midst of great trial, “Through the Lord’s mercies (chesed) we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22).
And also because
- chesed is what He desires from His people: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, (chesed) and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8). To belong to a God who so instructs His people is a wonderful thing.
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. If you don’t know how to use a concordance or Bible dictionary to do a word study, check out these quick tips.
*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).
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.