God’s Steadfast Love II
January 30, 2009
The steadfast love (chesed) of God is an absolutely awesome revelation of the character of God. It is also the very foundation of our love for others as we live out life as a believer in the God who loves us with an everlasting love. In Psalm 136, every verse of that historical Psalm ends with the line, “the steadfast love of the LORD (Yahweh) endures forever.” It makes one ask, “Did the author want to emphasize history with those words for emphasis or was he illustrating the eternal chesed by interspersing bits of history in between?” Regardless it sets a good precedent for thinking about our own histories!
Homework assignment: Write a paragraph or two from your history framed and focused on God’s chesed, His everlasting, steadfast love.
This word is used for both man’s desired attitude towards man (see for example, Joshua 2:14; 1 Sam. 20:14; 2 Sam. 9:3), and most often of God towards man. The latter outnumber the former by about three to one.
The article on chesed in the New International Dictionary of OT Theology and Exegesis, vol. 2, pages 211-218, sums up the biblical data on this marvelous word in several characteristics.
1. Divine chesed saves people from disaster or oppressors. This loving loyalty on God’s part is their only hedge against disaster (Gen 19:19).
2. Divine chesed sustains life (Ps. 6:4-5; 119:88, 149, 159).
3. Divine chesed counteracts God’s wrath (Isa 54:8; Micah 7:18; Lam. 3:31-32). Wrath is a true word, a right word, sometimes an inevitable word, such passages seem to say. But God would not have it be his last word. That honor is reserved for his unfailing love (chesed).
4. Divine chesed is enduring, persistent, even eternal. The biblical writers celebrate the everlastingness of God’s chesed (Ps. 103:17; 136 [every verse]; Isa. 54:10; Jer. 31:3).
5. But also, several texts witness to at least the hypothetical possibility of losing God’s chesed or of having it taken away (Jer. 16:5; 2 Sam. 7:15). What should we make of such apparent contradiction? Perhaps it is that temporary removal is necessary to a more lengthy (eternal?) continuation! “Perhaps this very tension reminds us of the relational core at the center of this concept. God’s steadfast love is not a mechanical tool to be used in a crisis, nor a philosophical absolute to be taken for granted. Rather, it is a quality of relationship that is to be sought again, appropriated, and treasured in the covenantal partner’s every needy moment” (p. 216).
6. Divine chesed is regarded as the basis or motive for petition before God. Sinners seek forgiveness on the basis of God’s chesed. The pleas of the psalmists encourage the view that God can choose to remember either sin or his chesed, but not both! (Numbers 14:17-19; Neh. 13:22; Ps. 25:7; 51:1).
7. Divine chesed occupies a prominent role in the inner and communal life of God’s people.
8. Divine chesed is both abundant and great. (Ex. 34:6-7; Ps. 33:5; 36:5; 57:10; 119:64)
9. Divine chesed characterizes God’s rule and establishes his King and his kingdom. (Psalms 89:14; 2 Sam. 22:51).