Ruth: 3:1-9; a study on chesed – lovingkindness, mercy, devotion.

Ruth: 3:1-9; a study on chesed – lovingkindness, mercy, devotion.  


I came across a quote this morning by Merrill Tenney from his book, John : The Gospel of Belief


He speaks of the dual nature of the gospel of John: light and darkness, tragedy and victory. It appeals to the victory that we read of in the Book of Ruth. Naomi had grown bitter, but her bitterness will be turned to joy. Ruth is a Moabite, but she will be turned into a great Jewess of faith and love and chesed. She will be in the line of Christ, a great-grandmother of David, through whom would come Jesus. But if Jesus’ end comes at the cross, then it is all in vain. Mankind and his world are full of such tragedy, but in Christ shall all be made new. Listen to Tenney’s words as he introduces the gospel of John.


“There are two aspects in this story, because there are two aspects to the person of Christ, the human and the divine. As a portrayer of human struggle, the gospel of John is a deep tragedy. All the worst of human passions and behaviors, all the utmost of human suffering and failure are adequately set forth: jealousy, avarice, hatred, envy, lust, duplicity, disloyalty, ingratitude, stupidity, brutality, hypocrisy, spite, and every other evil motive or quality are illustrated in the actions of this drama. Conversely, unselfishness, generosity, kindliness, purity, honesty, sincerity, and self-sacrifice may also be found.


Apart from divine intervention, as in all great tragic literature, evil would triumph, and in the crucifixion the tale would have ended sadly and disappointingly. More than this, the tragedy is ironical. The more humanity struggles against evil, the more deeply it gets involved in it. For instance, Peter avowed that he would never forsake his Lord but that he would lay down his life for Him; the exact opposite occurred. In the life of Jesus Himself, irony is apparent. Although He was virtuous, He suffered all possible indignities: majestic, He died in ignominy; powerful, He expired in weakness. Particularly is this fact illustrated by His claims as they contrast with His end. He claimed to possess the water of life, but He died thirsting. He claimed to be the light of the world, and He died in darkness. He claimed to be the good shepherd, and He died in the fangs of wolves. He claimed to be the truth, but He was crucified as an imposter. He claimed to be the resurrection and the life, and He expired before most victims of crucifixion usually did, so that Pilate was amazed.


Strangely enough, the culmination of His career seemed to give the lie to its intended meaning. Yet the greatest exemplar of righteousness that the world has seen became a helpless victim of evil, then supreme tragedy is the burden of the gospel of John. But from the divine perspective, the fourth gospel is not tragedy, but triumph. The plot reveals victory of life over death, of love over hate, of light over darkness, and of the Spirit over the flesh. The true culmination is not in the crucifixion, but in the resurrection. Unbelief does its worst at the cross and halts there. Faith holds on to the resurrection and so becomes victorious.


The divine word is not triumphed by being revealed in contrast to the world as a mystic vision untouched by the sordid realities of life, but rather by undergoing the worst that life could do, and by rising above it unscathed. Nor is this vision splendid only in a dream by which men delude themselves into thinking that they triumph over the world though actually they do not. Its call to faith produces a new practical reality for daily living.” [end quote]


Tenney realized that the triumph of the gospel and of Jesus, the personal embodiment of the gospel, did not overcome sin and evil by somehow going around it or over it, but by going right through it. Jesus subjected Himself to all evils, sins, and duplicities of mankind, for He was tempted in all things yet without sin. And as He walked right through His neighbors, who were trying to throw Him off a cliff, so He blazed a trail right through human tragedy, and through the resurrection, overcame all of it.


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.


We are looking at the combination of chesed and emeth (truth) in Psa 40.


Psa 40:1 For the choir director. A Psalm of David.

I waited patiently for the Lord;

And He inclined to me, and heard my cry.


Psa 40:2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay [water with a bottom of deep clay];

And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.


Psa 40:3 And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;

Many will see and fear, And will trust in the Lord.


Psa 40:4 How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,

And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.


Psa 40:5 Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done,

And Thy thoughts toward us;

There is none to compare with Thee;

If I would declare and speak of them,

They would be too numerous to count.


Psa 40:6 Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired;

My ears Thou hast opened;

Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required.


Psa 40:7 Then I said, "Behold, I come;

In the scroll of the book it is written of me;


Psa 40:8 I delight to do Thy will, O my God;

Thy Law is within my heart."


Psa 40:9 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;

Behold, I will not restrain my lips, O Lord, Thou knowest.


Psa 40:10 I have not hidden Thy righteousness within my heart;

I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation;

I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation.


Verse 10 concludes the first part of the song, which is of thanksgiving, and now in the second part, thanksgiving becomes a prayer petition.  


Psa 40:11 Thou, O Lord, wilt not withhold Thy compassion [literally bowels, referring to mercy] from me;

Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth will continually preserve me.


David wishes to stand continually under lovingkindness and truth. Lovingkindness and truth become his fortress.


Psa 40:12 For evils beyond number have surrounded me;

My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see;

They are more numerous than the hairs of my head;

And my heart has failed me.


Psa 40:13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;

Make haste, O Lord, to help me.


Psa 40:14 Let those be ashamed and humiliated together

Who seek my life to destroy it;

Let those be turned back and dishonored

Who delight in my hurt.


Psa 40:15 Let those be appalled because of their shame

Who say to me, "Aha, aha!"


Psa 40:16 Let all who seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee;

Let those who love Thy salvation say continually,

"The Lord be magnified!"


Psa 40:17 Since I am afflicted and needy,

Let the Lord be mindful of me;

Thou art my help and my deliverer;

Do not delay, O my God.


David’s life was surrounded by evil. He had urgent needs that only God could meet. He confidently acknowledged that he could continually stand under God’s devotion and truth.


Psa 40 shows us that we depend upon chesed and emeth, lovingkindness, mercy, and truth. We are dependent upon them being always available and never changing. Circumstances in life change quite often, and we would be carried around like a ship without anchor or rudder if we didn’t have the lovingkindness, mercy, and devotion of God to depend upon.


From Exodus to Chronicles, there are various examples of people showing kindness to others and the Lord showing kindness to His people. Lovingkindness is a foundational part of God’s dealings with His people and His people should have the same lovingkindness in their own hearts.


Lovingkindness is the expression of unconditional love to others. God shows it to us and them demands it of us to one another.  


There are many passages that we could read that would nicely sum up lovingkindness in the OT. They each speak of the lovingkindness of the Lord, without which, man would not know it. Out of many, I chose Lam 3.


Lamentations is made up of five poems composed on the fall of Jerusalem. It is a sobering book. The destruction of Jerusalem was the greatest tragedy that the nation of Israel had ever faced. The first poem is about their grief and shame. The second poem focuses in on the fall of the city and how it was a consequence of the sin of the people. The third poem is the one of hope. It is the picture of one suffering under the wrath of God, but who has come to understand that God’s covenants cannot be broken, and so he finds hope. This suffering man understands that God’s wrath must come upon the people because God is true to His word, but since He is true to His word, then He is also true to the promise of Israel’s future, and so, although this may be the end for this man, it is not the end for the people of Israel. God’s faithfulness in wrath is a true testament to His faithfulness in His promises of blessings. It is much like when you and I have gone astray, far from God, and we felt the incredible pain of His discipline. Didn’t that experience make you understand that God had not given up on you and that He would never give up on you?


This is a great example of the chesed of God.


Lam 3:19 Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.


Lam 3:20 Surely my soul remembers

And is bowed down within me.


Wandering from God, which is done in any form of sin, always brings bitterness to a heart.


Naomi found bitterness in her heart because she stopped trusting that God had a plan for her life, plans for her future and her good.


Jer 29:11

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord,' plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.


Remember, there is always forgiveness in God, for He has not left one sin not judged upon Christ.


Exo 34:6

“The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished,”


Lam 3:19 Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.


Lam 3:20 Surely my soul remembers

And is bowed down within me.


Lam 3:21 This I recall to my mind,

Therefore I have hope.


Lam 3:22 The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,

For His compassions never fail.


Lam 3:23 They are new every morning;

Great is Thy faithfulness.


To summarize these wonderful lines:

“I remember my wandering and the affliction it brought, but this I also remember, that the Lord’s chesed never ceases and compassion never fails. They are new every morning, therefore, I have hope.”


Lam 3:24 "The Lord is my portion [cheleq (hay-lek): blessing, field, territory, inheritance]," says my soul,

"Therefore I have hope in Him."


Lam 3:25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,

To the person who seeks Him.


I think it is easy to conclude what chesed is. I want to emphasize it in its application in our own lives, and to do this I chose to go to the NT. We could look at many examples of people showing chesed to others in the OT, but we have a fine example in the book of Ruth and I don’t think any of the other examples would add to that. God states His lovingkindness and its ultimate expression is in the cross of Christ.


The Septuagint translates chesed into eleos (mercy) rather than kindness (chrestotes). Jesus does the same in our main NT passage.


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