The key to having intimacy with the Lord is to understand his kindness. That’s a statement the Rabbi at a Messianic congregation said in a two-part message called “The Mystery of Kindness” and “The Mystery of Chesed,” and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately.
Chesed is a Hebrew word for goodness, mercy, kindness, and faithfulness. It’s often translated “loving kindness” when used of God, and it’s one of the key attributes of His character. He is “Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6, WEB).
This sort of kindness is something God wants to be known for because it’s a core part of His being. As Christians, we’re supposed to develop His character in us as we “put on Christ” (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27). In order to become like Him, we need to understand who He truly is and that includes an understanding of His chesed.
The Ways God Knows Us
God knows our hearts even better than we know ourselves. He has “searched me and known me.” He knows when I sit down and when I stand up. He knows all my thoughts, my ways, and my words (Ps. 139:1-4). And He knows all of you that way as well because He searches the depths of our hearts.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jer. 17:9-10, WEB)
God can see and understand us thoroughly all the time. He knows everyone on earth that way. But there are some people that He also knows in a closer, more personal way. He calls those people His friends. If we want to be friends of God a change is required in our hearts. We have to become like God to know God.
David’s Heart of Chesed
The Lord described King David as “a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22, WEB). He’s one of the examples given in scripture for us to look to and learn how to have a heart like God’s heart. One of the ways that David’s God-like heart showed up was in his kindness.
David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead, and said to them, “Blessed are you by Yahweh, that you have shown this kindness to your lord, even to Saul, and have buried him. Now may Yahweh show loving kindness and truth to you. I also will reward you for this kindness, because you have done this thing. (2 Sam. 5-6, WEB)
Even though Saul persecuted David, David still respected his position as king and mourned when Saul died. And instead of punishing those who honored Saul with a proper burial, the new king commended them for their kindness and showed kindness to them in return. He didn’t stop there either.
David said, “Is there yet any who is left of Saul’s house, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Sam. 9:1, WEB)
After locating Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, David had him brought to the palace.
David said to him, “Don’t be afraid of him; for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your father. You will eat bread at my table continually.” (2 Sam. 9:7, WEB)
The Lord’s Kindness
David showed this sort of kindness — chesed — because he’d learned it first-hand from God. He’s the one who wrote, “loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life,” which we talked about a couple weeks ago. Since it was such a big part of David’s faith, Yahweh’s loving kindness is a frequent theme in his psalms.
All the paths of Yahweh are loving kindness and truth to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. (Ps. 25:10, WEB)
But I will sing of your strength. Yes, I will sing aloud of your loving kindness in the morning. For you have been my high tower, a refuge in the day of my distress. (Ps. 59:16, WEB)
Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. (Ps. 63:3, WEB)
Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness. (Ps. 103:8, WEB)
The Lord even showed kindness to David after he committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11:1-12:13; Ps. 51:1). The Law demanded a death penalty for both those sins, but in this case the Lawgiver decided to show kindness the same way He would in the future as Jesus Christ. The Lord knew that David, as a man after God’s own heart, would repent and change if given the opportunity. David got to taste the Lord’s gracious kindness even before Messiah came to earth (Ps. 34:8; 1 Pet. 2:3-4).
A Change In Our Hearts
David’s son Solomon also recognized the importance of chesed. He wrote, “The merciful man does good to his own soul” and, “He who follows after righteousness and kindness finds life, righteousness, and honor” (Prov. 11:17; 21:2, WEB). Not only does being kind mean we’ll be good to others, but it is also good for us as well.
Don’t let kindness and truth forsake you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor, and good understanding in the sight of God and man. (Prov. 3:3-4, WEB)
We need to have kindness written in our hearts to make our hearts like God’s. This happens when the Spirit of God dwells in us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. If we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-25, WEB)
God reveals Himself through His spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-16). That’s how He shares His heart and mind with us, and transforms our hearts and minds to be like His. Our “fleshiness” can get in the way of this if we’d let it, but we don’t have to. Walking in the spirit is a choice that God, in His kindness, empowers us to make. We can know Him intimately and learn His kindness just as David did.