So there it is. Chesed is probably not a word you’ve ever heard of and many theologians and translators were so flummoxed by it that they have put forward an extensive collection of possible meanings, to cover all bases. It is really quite simple as chesed is probably the defining characteristic of God. It is His chesed and, when we become one with Him, we also inherit chesed, enabling us to go above and beyond, as we saw in the Sermon on the Mount.
The problem has been, as ever, the Greek mindset that we, and particularly our academics, have inherited. The Greek mind strives for understanding and when it hits something that, perhaps, is not meant for our understanding, then it flounders and panics. Chesed is the case in point and, by confusing the issue for the rest of us with a whole dictionary of possible meanings, they have ensured that we remain in ignorance about it. Doesn’t it seem odd that a word that is so prevalent and important in the Hebrew Scriptures is not one that we are familiar with? Blame the theologians, their Greek minds can’t accept that chesed is just … chesed. The Hebrew mind accepts this and is quite happy to accept that God has a quality that somehow represents how He is able to remain interested in our flawed humanity and will always go that extra mile for us.
Before we end, here is a friend’s testimony, of how an appreciation of God’s chesed helped him in a very real sense through a major illness:
“Without discovering the true nature of the character of Heavenly Father, I’m not sure how I could have got through the last few decades. I have been struggling as a pituitary tumour has thrown my hormones wildly out of balance, and that led to other things being out of balance in my life. One key to healing came to me while studying ‘balance’ in the scriptures, and I discovered this wonderful Hebrew word ‘chesed’. Many times it occurs when describing Father’s character alongside things like His truth, or His justice. For me at the beginning, the key revelation was the translation of it as lovingkindness, or simply kindness.
Put simply, He has been kind to me. I don’t mean the tumour has left my body, (although it’s affect has begun to be controlled) but He has walked through it with me, and when it has threatened to overwhelm me, I wasn’t washed away or drowned, because He reminded me of His strong & kind presence with me as I meditated on the Word. (Isaiah 43:2 “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: …”).
You see in the case of the scripture above, it doesn’t even include the word chesed, but it does reflect the truth of the revelation of it being Father’s true nature. The word chesed occurs often in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it also suffuses the whole of the Holy Bible as Father’s true nature is revealed. So there is a huge wealth of scriptures on which to meditate. Of course ‘kindness’ is not enough to encompass all the riches of God’s character, and chesed is translated wonderfully variously, and each word is worth meditating on for a healthy balanced ‘diet’, but somehow even to this day, kindness is a quality which melts my heart. It seems to be in short supply today, as lives get busier, and people get more preoccupied with meeting the needs of their own small circle. So giving it and receiving it is becoming more and more precious, and a rare and valued expression of the Father’s love. But coming to The Lord, His kindness never changes. To help our feeble human minds, in the scriptures it is balanced by His truth, justice and holiness, but that is only necessary because we cannot comprehend true kindness without corrupting it into a weak and pale compromise. But in Heavenly Father, true, strong, pure kindness can be found, and it is a pearl of great price.”
One feels that One New Man ought to have no problem with chesed and that an understanding of the Hebrew Mindset would have ensured that this word would have been as familiar to us as love. God is love. Yes, but God also is chesed!
This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp
How does God go that extra mile?