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Give Thanks to YHWH For He is Good for His Mercy (Chesed) Endures Forever—Part Three
Part one of this series reviewed the definition and pictograph of the Hebrew word for thanks and how it expresses the idea of understanding His loyal covenant love towards us and expressing it with our mouths and hands symbolic of "throwing" it out there.
Part two of this series looked at the Hebrew word for good in relation to God's goodness and our responsibility to distinguish it so.
"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever"
— Psalm 107:1
In wrapping up this three part series on "Give thanks to the YHWH for He is good and His mercy endures forever" I would like to look at the word "mercy".
Concept of Covenant
In a previous Hub, I wrote about mercy (rechem) that concerns God's affections for us. Today I want to look at mercy (chesed) "The covenant love of God."
"Chesed" is most commonly translated "mercy", "loving kindness", and "goodness" in the KJV. While the concept of Chesed includes these ideas, the translations are rather shallow, vague, and almost generic descriptions of the true meaning of the word.
"Chesed" is a covenant word. Sometimes our modern minds have a difficult time comprehending concepts such as covenant because we have no frame of reference for it. For instance, a marriage could or should be an example of a covenant because it involves promises and supposed lifetime commitments, but is a difficult comparison considering in our culture the marriage covenant is more like a written contract and not totally binding. Living in a culture of divorce and disposable relationships have seriously undermined the whole idea of a covenant relationship which was supposed to communicate the ideas of reciprocal love, promises, and a "till death do we part" commitment. Relationship commitments are opted out of, and violated as easily as a sign on the dotted line car loan. Promises in our culture are about as flimsy as the pieces of paper we use to sign them. Relationships tend to last as long as the existence of the feelings that bind them. And we tend to find loop holes in which we can disengage ourselves when it appears things are not working out in our favor. This leaves us with a rather distorted image of what true covenant is about.
The Word of God will be as always our best reference in discovering the true concepts of covenant.
The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
— Isaiah 40:8
Covenant A Life and Death Matter
A Biblical covenant is more substantial than a contract in that upholding a covenant is a life and death matter. When ancient tribes covenanted with each other the deal was sealed with something more relevant to its concept than a piece of paper with a signature. It usually was substantiated by the death of an animal indicating that if the terms of the agreement were violated, death to the violator would be justified and enforced. Emotional dissatisfactions were not valid reasons for violating a covenant. Fairness was not a relevant consideration either.
There is a story in the book of Joshua where a neighboring tribe (the Gibeonites) tricked Joshua into making a covenant with them. God had specifically instructed Joshua not to covenant with people of the land in which they were entering. But the Gibeonites were wanting protection from Joshua's tribe and from their surrounding enemies. By covenanting with a stronger tribe (Joshua's) this would obligate the stronger tribe to protect them. So the Gibeonites disguised themselves as coming from a very far away land and ultimately Joshua was talked into covenant with them. He did not seek the Lord concerning the matter. (Joshua 9)
There came a time when the enemies of the Gibeonites came up against them and because of their covenant Joshua and his army rose up to defend them. Joshua and the Israelites knew that they had been tricked into the covenant but they still fulfilled their obligation to it. Once the deal was made there was no opting out. Joshua didn't say "well you tricked me so I am not holding up my end of this agreement." Joshua knew and understood the consequences of doing so. He knew the God who would hold him to it. The Israelites were to exhibit the true concept of covenant as a reflection of the one who had covenanted with them.
So how is Chesed mercy related to covenant? I like how Vines Expository dictionary puts it in its definition of loving kindness. (chesed is spelled Hesed here)
"The word refers primarily to mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties of a relationship (especially Yahweh and Israel). But hesed is not only a matter of obligation; It is also of generosity. It is not only a matter of loyalty, but also of mercy. The weaker party seeks the protection and blessing of the patron and protector...Hesed implies personal involvement and commitment in a relationship beyond the rule of law.
Marital love is often related to hesed. Marriage certainly is a legal matter yet the relationship far transcends mere legalities"
In this description, we can see that mercy has to do with God's commitment to a relationship with us and that within this alliance there is much more than just obligation, but a relationship is born and developed within the boundaries of the covenant.
The obligations and commitments were intended to be walls of protection so that a relationship which included the emotions that would go with it, could be safely developed. He is the stronger provisional party.
It also includes the idea that our reciprocation that is shown through our loyalty, love, and commitment towards Him. Isn't it amazing that God would want to covenant with us when we have nothing to offer Him in return but our love and loyalty?
The Hebrew word pictograph explains this further.
The Hebrew word for "chesed" is comprised of a "chet", a "samech", and a "dalet".
Chet is a picture of a fence and carries the concept of boundaries for a cared for possession, being surrounded, and protected while on the inside. A couple of Hebrew words using the letter "chet" are friend and brother and show us examples of relationships we might feel safe or protected within. Some other interesting words are embrace, cherish, and favor. All these words are descriptive of what can happen within the boundaries (obligations, and commitments) of a covenant relationship.
Samech is a picture of a crutch or prop that is twisted and carries with it the idea of being supported, sustained, held up and helped.
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
— Ecclesiastes 4:12
And a threefold cord (rope) is not quickly broken.
A rope is generally made by twisting strands of fiber together which improves the strength of the fibers immensely.
in a forthcoming Hub about the "Feast of Tabernacles," we will look at how the feast centers around dwelling with God. Dwelling with God has everything to do with a covenant. in light of this, I would like to look at a portion of an article by Bob Torango that ties so beautifully with the whole theme of the celebration of "The Feast of Tabernacles" and supports the word picture for Samech and its relationship to the covenant word mercy. It also expresses that mercy includes Gods great desire and invitation to dwell with him, in him, and He in us.
"Tabernacles means more than God just living in man. It means God “ENTWINING” Himself with man, as the physical booths that were made by the instruction of the Lord, bringing together both supple and bendable branches and also the sturdy and reliable branches to form a BOOTH...God is ENTWINING Himself in and amongst us, TABERNACLING in and amongst us...joined and made one with God."
— Bob Torango1
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
— John 17:22-23
A couple of other words that appear to be on the opposite end of the spectrum yet using the letter "samech" is "depart" and reject. This could be showing us that departing from evil is a necessary requirement to be "in" the covenant and exhibits our part of the relationship and to not do so means we are essentially rejecting him. When we sin we are seeking to be held up and supported from another source besides Him. To depart from Evil results in good. Repentance plain and simple.
Sin is being on the outside, covenant is about being on the inside. Sin is a vacuum. covenant is to be full and satisfied. Sin is to be in darkness. Covenant is to be in light. they are mutually exclusive places. We must decide whether we want to be in our out. We cannot enter covenant without departing from evil.
The final letter of this word is "dalet". This letter is a picture of a door and indicates the way into or out of. A door can welcome or prohibit access. A door involves a decision to enter or not. Relationships hinge upon the willingness of both parties to allow each other in.
This verse shows Jesus knocking on the door of our hearts.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
— Revelation 3:20
This verse shows Jesus inviting us to enter His door.
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
— John 10:9
There is only one way (door) into the covenant relationship with its benefits of God's "Chesed - Mercy" (love, favor, kindness, and loyalty) and it is through the blood covenant in which our savior Jesus became the sacrificial lamb and bore the penalty for our sins. He was the pure, sweet, innocent life that traded his life for our death so we could live again with Him in paradise if we so choose. No one enters into covenant except through this door nor experiences the Chesed of His covenant.
The Letter Dalet also carries with it the concept of searching, seeking and inquiring. Some common phrases we can see in the alphabetic psalms (2) are "look upon me", "show me", "deal with me", "let me", "teach me", "command me", "revive me", "make me understand", "strengthen me", "remove from me", "grant me", "incline my heart". These appear to be clear invitations of one who is seeking for the entrance of a savior to transform him. Would it be safe to say that the entry to the "door" involves recognizing the need to be forgiven, cleansed, and transformed and seeking after the only one who can do that?
putting it all together from our word picture definition we can see that Mercy is experiencing God's love, favor, loyalty, protection, help, and support, and we are cherished and embraced within the boundaries of a protected exclusive relationship. We see that mercy expresses God's desire and will to entwine His life with ours by dwelling within us as we dwell "in" Him and the only door into this exclusive relationship is through recognizing our need and seeking for our savior Jesus to cleanse us from our sins and to transform us.
May it also be noted that mercy is a reciprocal relationship meaning our response is required.
If we look at God's mercy as who He is rather than something He does we can see that mercy is His character. It is who He is.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
— I John 4:7-9
"His mercy ENDURES FOREVER"
It is who He has always been, it is who He is, It is who He will always be. The plans have not changed. God's desire has not changed. His faithfulness to His covenant is still in tact.
“For I am the LORD, I do not change...
— Malachi 3:6
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
— James 1:17
He has not changed His mind about us since the day he created a garden, a place for us to dwell with Him.
Prodigal—Image of Chesed
The story of the "Prodigal Son" (Luke 15:11-32) is a great example of how God's covenant love works. The son was granted the full rights and privileges of a son while he remained loyal and "in" relationship with the father. When the son chose to leave His father's house to pursue his own interests he was unable to experience or participate in that relationship (covenant) nor experience its benefits (mercy) but it did not change the will, desire, or character of the father. The father's house still functioned as it always had. The mercy was still where it always had been and was waiting for him upon his return. The father loved him before he left, while he was gone, and when he came home. The experience of the man hinged upon his position, not God's. Because "His mercy (covenant love, favor, kindness, protection, and loyalty) endures forever"
God's plan was to make a way for man to get back into the covenant and experience paradise once again where "chesed" was the atmosphere through the precious sacrifice of His one and only son whose death made a door for us to get back home where we belonged all along.
May we diligently seek to enter the door of covenant relationship with God and experience the mercy-love that comes from the eternal source. Everything else disappears and will be no more.
Do we want to see His covenant?
The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.
— Psalm 25:14
(2) Alphabetic Psalms are the Psalms that have verses that begin with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet successively to form acrostics.
Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words.
© 2010 Tamarajo