2 Sam. 22: 47-51
Of all the men in the Bible, David is certainly the one most likely to be described as a “Renaissance Man,” meaning a man of many talents. He had many years’ experience as a shepherd, and during the lonely days and nights watching the sheep he'd apparently developed other skills as well. He was an accomplished musician, both as a player and as a composer. He was a brave and fierce warrior, having fought off both lions and bears who thought they could walk off with one of his lambs. He was a charismatic leader, as shown by how quickly he won over all the military officers and other people in Saul’s administration. And best of all, he was a godly man who loved his Lord and was dedicated to him.
One of his greatest psalms is the 18th, also recorded in today’s passage. There is one word, however, found at the end of the chapter which is worthy of a study all by itself, and I thought this would be a great springboard for it. It’s translated as “unfailing kindness” in the NIV, but it's been rendered in several different ways, since it’s very rich in meaning, and there’s no one English word which captures it.
The word is chesed, and it’s one of my favorite words in the Old Testament. If you want to pronounce it, you first have to sound like you’re about to “hock a loogie” and spit something up—so if you don’t know how to sound it out, don’t worry about it. As I mentioned before, it’s translated in several ways: “mercy,” “lovingkindness” (in the old King James Version), and “unfailing love.”
Psalm 136 has this word repeated in all of its 26 verses: It tells the story of Creation and the Exodus and sounds the refrain at the end of every single verse: “For his chesed endures forever.” In other words, his love and mercy are interwoven into every aspect of creation. In all his dealings with us--as his people and as individuals--his unfailing love overshadows everything. In his unfailing love we live and breathe and walk. It surrounds us, and we can’t get away from it completely in this life, even if we want to.
After the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah (no, I’m not going to start bashing David again), the forgiven and repentant king wrote the 51st Psalm. The first verse spells out his reason for confidence: “Have mercy on me, oh God, according to your unfailing love.” He knew that there was no animal sacrifice which would cover his sin, no way he could “make up” for what he'd done, so all he could appeal to was God’s chesed.
But there’s another interesting use of the word. The prophet Micah, speaking on behalf of the Lord, laid out what he expects of his people:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy [chesed]
and to walk humbly with your God."
In other words, since the Lord has shown us mercy, kindness, and unfailing love, he expects us to follow his example.
Father, your love and mercy are everywhere, if I only have the eyes to see it. Please, make me like you, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
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