Archives for : what does Hesed mean?

DO NOT Commit Random Acts of Kindness

A while back a bumper sticker read: “Commit Random Acts of Kindness”

The Bumper sticker is wrong. Christians are called to a way of life; not random acts, but habitual practice. We are called to practice that which reflects God’s own character and righteousness. It is said, “Justice is one side of the coin of love, the other side is Mercy.” Both the Old and New Testament proclaim mercy as characteristic of God.

“[B]ut God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7Ephesians 2:4-7
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ , 6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus:

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, ASV).

Notice the emphasis on:

Rich in Mercy
Great in Love
By Grace
Demonstrates the exceeding riches of his Grace and Kindness

“And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”(Exodus 34:6-7Exodus 34:6-7
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

6 And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, 7 keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.

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Notice the parallels to the emphasis above:

Merciful
Gracious
Rich in Mercy
Forgiving – Grace and Kindness in action

Jesus took our sins upon himself, bearing those sins, and paid the due penalty for our sins. Forgiveness is not a free-pass; someone paid. We love to talk about God’s mercy, but we’re somewhat troubled by the second part of Exodus 34:7Exodus 34:7
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

7 keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.

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. The part that says:

“…and that will by no means clear the guilty…”(Exodus 34:7Exodus 34:7
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

7 keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.

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God forgives, yet refuses to declare the guilty innocent. It is in Jesus that God shows how he can justify (acquit) the transgressor and still remain just (Romans 3:26Romans 3:26
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

26 for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.

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). So great is his mercy, he pays the judicial wrath against sin, bearing the penalty we have earned.

Justice is rendering to each their due, protecting rights and punishing the guilty, whereas within mercy, is included the idea of not rendering earned punishment. God mercifully does not call us into account for our sinful acts immediately, but grants time for repentance. God’s mercy brings with it the full weight of responsibility to practice mercy.

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7Matthew 5:7
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

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). “Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36Luke 6:36
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

36 Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

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In the story of the good Samaritan Jesus asked:

“Which of these three, thinkest thou, proved neighbor unto him that fell among the robbers? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. And Jesus said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:36-37Luke 10:36-37
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

36 Which of these three, thinkest thou, proved neighbor unto him that fell among the robbers? 37 And he said, He that showed mercy on him. And Jesus said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

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Twice Jesus quoted Hosea: “I desire mercy not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6Hosea 6:6
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

6 For I desire goodness, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.

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; Matthew 9:13Matthew 9:13
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

13 But go ye and learn what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

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and 12:7). Among the Hebrew words we translate “mercy” is Hesed, there is no precise English equivalent to the word. This characteristic of God covers the ideas of goodness, kindness, and compassion. It is closely related to the Greek “charis” which we translate as “grace”. Love (agape) does more than just practice justice. Justice (mispat) renders each their due, but love goes beyond simple rights and protections. Mercy is to be practiced by those who have known God’s mercy.

“For the one who has shown no mercy will be judged without mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13James 2:13
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

13 For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment.

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Rather than “random acts of kindness,” love incorporates Hesed into our daily practice toward all those who are made in the image of God.

by Scott Wiley