Ruth: 3:1-9; a study on chesed - lovingkindness, mercy, devotion.
Chesed: lovingkindness, mercy, grace, love, sacrificial devotion. It is the devotion of God’s in mercy to those who will to follow His way. God also demands that chesed be in us.
I think it is easy to conclude what chesed is. It is the lovingkindness, mercy, grace, love, and sacrificial devotion of God towards His covenant people, of which all believers are. God’s faithfulness to His own is revealed in deliverance and blessing. Such things are extended to all mankind, but there are some who reject it and do not attend God’s banquet. For those of us who do, the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises is chesed. His continued and complete forgiveness, the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, the abundance of His grace will always fill His banquet table and those who love Him will continue to feast upon it.
When full of God’s chesed, it is in our own soul ready to be given to others. And for this part of our study, we turn to our Lord in the New Testament.
The Septuagint translates chesed into eleos (mercy) rather than kindness (chrestotes). Jesus does the same in our main NT passage.
We would naturally look for the word “kindness” in the NT, but that is not the word that translates as chesed.
And so, we find the word “mercy” being used and this is confirmed by our Lord.
As in the OT, the majority of cases where “mercy” is used in the NT are from God towards man. However, in the one significant place that it is required of man, comes from instruction from our Lord.
But there is a significant example of chesed in the instruction of our Lord to the Pharisees. It gets right to the heart of our day to day lives.
The attributes of God that can be in us, must be in us. We must not waver of this. We must not compromise. We must settle for nothing less that the very attributes of God as we are empowered by faith in the Spirit within to guide us and teach us. Our Lord was clear on this. He said that we are blessed if we do them.
A wonderful example of our Lord’s chesed was when He washed the disciples’ feet. He said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
JOH 13:12 And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?
JOH 13:13 "You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.
JOH 13:14 "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.
You ought to serve one another, no matter how high your actual position may be.
JOH 13:15 "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.
JOH 13:16 "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master [kurios: Lord]; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.
JOH 13:17 "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Talking about them is fine, but without doing them, talk is cheap. We are called to do and we must. So much of our spiritual lives will be missed if we fail to do them. We must get at it today and every day hence, for time is fleeting and short. Whatever or whoever is in front of you today, give to them the chesed of God, however much you know of it, and determine to know more and so have chesed increasing within you.
The particular example of our Lord’s use of the word took place a little more than a year into His ministry in His hometown of Nazareth.
Ancient house in Galilee
What has occurred is that Jesus healed a Jewish leper. This is the one and only time this had occurred and it was proven to the priests at the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was in Galilee, in His hometown of Nazareth, but so significant was this miracle, that the priests and Pharisees from Jerusalem and from other towns had come to see Him along with many others from the town and surrounding towns.
From Luke’s account, the house where this took place was so crowded with people that they had to let the paralytic man down through the roof that covered the interior courtyard.
At the right time, when the crowd around Him was tremendous and the leading Pharisees and Sadducees were in attendance and at full attention, Jesus told the paralytic that was brought to Him that his sins were forgiven.
Chesed - “You sins are forgiven you. Rise and walk.”
MAT 9:1 And getting into a boat, He crossed over, and came to His own city.
MAT 9:2 And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven."
MAT 9:3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes."
"Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" [Mark records the same]
MAT 9:4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?
What evil are they thinking? Jesus’ ministry has been in full swing for a little over a year. He has healed thousands. He has conveyed to Israel, in every conceivable way that He is the promised One prophesied for millennia. He has taught the Sermon on the Mount. And He has recently healed a Jewish leper, confirmed by the Temple. The evil that they are thinking is that Jesus is nothing more than a popular man.
MAT 9:5 "For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, and walk'?
It is easier to say words than to heal with a word. But which is easier to do, to heal the man or to do what it takes to forgive sins?
Anyone in the house can utter the phrase, “Your sins are forgiven,” but who in the house can make the man walk? What has not entered into the mind of anyone in the house is that Jesus is the Son of God and that He has the power to forgive sins. Further than this, Jesus saying that the man’s sins are forgiven doesn’t actually grant forgiveness. Jesus must do what it takes to make that forgiveness a reality, and in this is the greatest mercy, the cross.
MAT 9:6 "But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" — then He said to the paralytic — "Rise, take up your bed, and go home."
MAT 9:7 And he rose, and went home.
Think about the people in this man’s home, in his neighborhood, town, and surrounding towns. They had known this man for many years and now they see him walking because Jesus of Nazareth said, “Rise and walk.”
MAT 9:8 But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
The people in attendance were astonished. Among these people are the same who a few months ago were looking to throw Jesus off a cliff. He did not do many miracles in His own town, but today He performed one in front of the religious leaders of the country and with the shattering words, “Your sins are forgiven.” They were astonished at the healing, as well as Jesus’ words that the man’s sins were forgiven, as well as His open rebuke of the religious leaders.
You can bet that the leaders were steaming inside more than they were in awe. From this point on they would keep close tabs on Jesus. So they are following His movements, and what does He do next? He calls one of the most hated men in Israel, a tax-collector.
To the Jew a tax-collector was one of the most visible signs of the degradation of their nation, subjugated to Roman rule. These Jews collected taxes for the Romans. Taxes were taken for traveling on the roads and for crossing the Sea of Galilee, much like a toll, and Matthew (Jewish name Levi) likely was one of these collectors. They generally became wealthy men, which made them more hated, as it was seen to be at the expense of their fellow Jews.
MAT 9:9 And as Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he rose, and followed Him.