Tamarajo is an avid Bible Studier who loves nothing more than to seek out the treasures in God's Word and share them with others.
"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever"
— Psalm 107:1
This study centers on the above Scriptural phrase, which is quoted six times in the Old Testament.
The definition and pictograph of the Hebrew word for thanks express the idea of understanding His loyal covenant love towards us and communicating it with our mouths and hands symbolic of "throwing" it out there.
The Hebrew word for good, concerning God's goodness, comes with the responsibility for us to distinguish it so.
This lesson will examine the word "mercy."
Concept of Covenant
There are a few Hebrew words translated "mercy" in the Old Testament. This study will look at one of the most frequently used ones, as is used in the Bible verse above, and that is "chesed." "Chesed" explicitly expresses the loyal, faithful covenant love of God.
Sometimes our modern minds have difficulty comprehending concepts such as covenant because we have no frame of reference for it. For instance, a marriage could or should be an example of a covenant because it involves promises and supposed lifetime commitments, but it is a problematic comparison considering in our culture, the marriage covenant is more like a written contract and not totally binding. Living in a culture of divorce and disposable relationships have seriously undermined the whole idea of a covenant relationship that was supposed to communicate the ideas of reciprocal love, promises, and a "till death do we part" commitment. Relationship commitments are opted out of and violated as easily as a sign on the dotted line car loan. Promises in our culture are about as flimsy as the pieces of paper we use to sign them. Relationships tend to last as long as the existence of the feelings that bind them. And we tend to find loopholes in which we can disengage ourselves when it appears things are not working out in our favor. This example leaves us with a somewhat distorted image of what real covenant is about.
The Word of God will always be our best reference for discovering the right concepts of a covenant.
The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
— Isaiah 40:8
Covenant A Life and Death Matter
A Biblical covenant is more substantial than a contract because upholding a covenant is a life and death matter. When ancient tribes covenanted with each other, the deal was sealed with something more relevant to its concept than a piece of paper with a signature. An ancient near eastern covenant usually was substantiated by an animal's death, indicating that if the terms of the agreement were violated, death to the violator would be justified and enforced. Emotional dissatisfactions were not valid reasons for breaking a covenant. Fairness was not a relevant consideration either.
There is a story in the book of Joshua where a neighboring tribe, the Gibeonites, tricked Joshua into making a covenant with them. God had explicitly instructed Joshua not to covenant with people of the land in which they were entering. But the Gibeonites wanted protection from Joshua's tribe. By covenanting with a stronger tribe, Joshua's, this would obligate the stronger tribe to protect them. So the Gibeonites disguised themselves as coming from a very far away land, and ultimately Joshua was talked into covenant with them. He did not seek the Lord concerning the matter. (Joshua 9)
There came a time when the Gibeonites' enemies came up against them, and because of their covenant Joshua and his army rose up to defend them. Joshua and the Israelites knew that they had been tricked into the covenant, but they still fulfilled their obligation to it. Once the deal was sealed, there was no opting out. Joshua didn't say, "well, you tricked me, so I am not holding up my end of this agreement." Joshua knew and understood the consequences of doing so. He knew the God who would hold him to it. The Israelites were supposed to exhibit the genuine concept of covenant as a reflection of the one who had covenanted with them.
So how is Chesed mercy related to covenant? I like how Vine's Expository Dictionary puts it in its definition of loving-kindness.
"The word refers primarily to mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties of a relationship (especially Yahweh and Israel). But hesed is not only a matter of obligation; It is also of generosity. It is not only a matter of loyalty, but also of mercy. The weaker party seeks the protection and blessing of the patron and protector...Hesed implies personal involvement and commitment in a relationship beyond the rule of law.
Marital love is often related to hesed. Marriage certainly is a legal matter yet the relationship far transcends mere legalities"
In this description, we can see that mercy has to do with God's commitment to a relationship with us and that within this alliance, there is much more than just obligation. Still, a relationship is born and developed within the boundaries of the covenant.
The obligations and commitments were intended to be walls of protection so that a relationship that included the emotions that would go with it could be safely developed. God is the stronger provisional party.
It also includes the idea that our reciprocation displays through our loyalty, love, and commitment towards Him. Isn't it amazing that God would want to covenant with us when we have nothing to offer Him in return but our love and loyalty?
The Hebrew word pictograph explains this further.
The Hebrew word for "chesed" is comprised of a "chet," a "samech," and a "dalet."
"Chet" is a picture of a fence. It contains the concept of boundaries for a cared-for possession, surrounded, and protected while on the inside. A couple of Hebrew words using the letter "chet" are friend and brother and show us examples of relationships we might feel safe or protected within. Some other interesting words are embrace, cherish, and favor. All these words describe what can happen within the boundaries (obligations and commitments) of a covenant relationship.
"Samech" is a picture of a crutch or prop that is twisted and carries with it the idea of being supported, sustained, held up, and helped.
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
— Ecclesiastes 4:12
And a threefold cord (rope) is not quickly broken.
A rope is generally made by twisting strands of fiber together, which improves the fibers' strength immensely.
Dwelling with God has everything to do with a covenant. Bob Torango ties this idea together so beautifully with the whole theme of the celebration of "The Feast of Tabernacles." He supports the word picture for "samech" and its relationship to the covenant word mercy. He also expresses that mercy includes God's great desire and invitation to dwell with him, in him, and He in us.
"Tabernacles means more than God just living in man. It means God “ENTWINING” Himself with man, as the physical booths that were made by the instruction of the Lord, bringing together both supple and bendable branches and also the sturdy and reliable branches to form a BOOTH . . . God is ENTWINING Himself in and amongst us, TABERNACLING in and amongst us...joined and made one with God."
— Bob Torango1
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
— John 17:22-23
A couple of other words that appear to be on the opposite end of the spectrum, yet using the letter "samech" is "depart" and "reject." These definitions could be showing us that departing from evil is a requirement to be "in" the covenant and exhibits our part of the relationship. To not do so means we are essentially rejecting him. When we sin, we are seeking to be held up and supported by another source besides Him. To depart from evil results in good.
Sin is about being on the outside. Covenant is about being on the inside. Sin is a vacuum. Covenant is to be full and satisfied. Sin is to dwell in darkness. Covenant is to be in the light. They are mutually exclusive places. We must decide whether we want to be in our out. We cannot enter a covenant with God without departing from evil.
The final letter of the word "chesed," defined as God's covenant loyal love, is "dalet." This letter is a picture of a door and indicates the way into or out of. A door can welcome or prohibit access. A door involves a decision to enter or not. Relationships hinge upon the willingness of both parties to allow each other in.
This verse shows Jesus knocking on the door of our hearts.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
— Revelation 3:20
This verse shows Jesus inviting us to enter His door.
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
— John 10:9
There is only one way (door) into the covenant relationship with its benefits of God's "Chesed—Mercy." It is through the blood covenant, in which our savior Jesus became the sacrificial lamb. He bore the penalty for our sins. He was the pure, sweet, innocent life that traded his life for our death so we could live again with Him in paradise. No one enters into covenant except through this door nor experiences the "chesed" of His covenant.
The Letter "dalet" also carries with it the concept of searching, seeking, and inquiring. Some common phrases we can see in the alphabetic psalms.
- "look upon me,"
- "show me,"
- "deal with me,"
- "let me,"
- "teach me,"
- "command me,"
- "revive me,"
- "make me understand,"
- "strengthen me",
- "remove from me,"
- "grant me,"
- "incline my heart."
These appear to be clear invitations to seek the entrance of the savior that transforms. Would it be safe to say that the entry to the "door" involves recognizing the need to be forgiven, cleansed, and transformed and seeking after the only one who can do that?
Putting it all together from our word picture definition, we can see that mercy is experiencing God's love, favor, loyalty, protection, help, and support. We are cherished and embraced within the boundaries of a protected, exclusive relationship. We see that mercy expresses God's desire and will to entwine His life with ours by dwelling within us as we live "in" Him. And the only door into this exclusive relationship is recognizing our need and seeking our savior Jesus to cleanse us from our sins and transform us.
May it also be noted that mercy is a reciprocal relationship meaning our response is required.
If we look at God's mercy as who He is rather than something He does, we can see that mercy is His character. It is who He is.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
— I John 4:7-9
"His mercy ENDURES FOREVER."
It is who He is. It is who He has always been. It is who He will always be. The plans have not changed. God's desire has not changed. His faithfulness to His covenant is still intact.
“For I am the LORD, I do not change . . .
— Malachi 3:6
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
— James 1:17
He has not changed His mind about us since the day he created a garden, a place for us to dwell with Him.
Prodigal—Image of Chesed
The story of the "Prodigal Son" (Luke 15:11-32) is an excellent example of how God's covenant love works. The son was granted the full rights and privileges of a son while remaining loyal and "in" relationship with the father. When the son chose to leave His father's house to pursue his own interests, he could not experience or participate in that relationship (covenant) nor experience its benefits (mercy). Still, it did not change the will, desire, or character of the father. The father's house still functioned as it always had. The mercy was still where it always had been and was waiting for him upon his return. The father loved him before he left, while he was gone, and when he came home. The experience of the man hinged upon his position, not God's. Because "His mercy (covenant love, favor, kindness, protection, and loyalty) endures forever."
God planned to make way for man to get back into the covenant and experience paradise once again where "chesed" was the atmosphere through the precious sacrifice of His one and only son whose death made a door for us to get back home where we belonged all along.
May we diligently seek to enter the door of covenant relationship with God and experience the mercy-love that comes from the eternal source. Everything else disappears and will be no more.
Do we want to see His covenant?
The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.
— Psalm 25:14
(2) Alphabetic Psalms are the Psalms that have verses that begin with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet successively to form acrostics.
Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words.
© 2010 Tamarajo
Tamarajo (author) on March 29, 2011:
Thank you vocalcoach I am glad that you were touched and inspired by the article.
I too was moved by this revelation brought forth by Bob Torango. It seemed to really give agreement to the entire message of how near and dear God wishes to be with us. And how the Covenant encompasses much more than the legalities of the relationship but also includes the elements that bind us together in love.
I appreciate you stopping by and your encouraging comment.
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 29, 2011:
So touching and insightful! I have learned so much from this hub, one of my favorites being "Tabernacles means more than God just living in man. It means God “ENTWINING” Himself with man, as the physical booths that were made by the instruction of the Lord, bringing together both supple and bendable branches and also the sturdy and reliable branches to form a BOOTH...God is ENTWINING Himself in and amongst us, TABERNACLING in and amongst us...joined and made one with God."
I thank you for this beautiful experience. :)vocalcoach
Tamarajo (author) on January 23, 2011:
Hello Cristina. It is in His mercy that covenant love that contains all that we need and all that we can ever hope to be. Apart from Him we are nothing and can do nothing of eternal value.
Thank you for your visit and insightful comment
Cristina Santander from Manila on January 19, 2011:
Excellent hub which present great insights to ponder. I am always thankful for God's great mercy bestowed on me. We are dependent on His mercy every moment of our life that is why we can never go away from His covenant with us. Thank you for sharing these timeless truths. Blessings and regards.
Tamarajo (author) on October 30, 2010:
thank you Lorena for you visit and comment. II Timothy 2 is a great addition to the theme and understanding of His covenant love. And a great addition in adding "emet" His truth.
Blessed to discover another fellow Hebrew lover : )
lcg4jc on October 28, 2010:
Thank you for the beautiful hub on "hesed"
I always think of the scripture found in 2 Tinothy 2:11- 13 (emphasis on 13)
"11It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself."
His faithfulness to His commitment to keep His part of the covenant regardless of our conduct.
He is FAITHFUL AND TRUE (Rev. 19:11)
"chesed" and "emeth"
Thank you once again, I truly enjoy your hubs. God bless you always, Lorena
Tamarajo (author) on October 18, 2010:
Thank you drpastorcarlotta. Bless you for stopping by. Thank you for the vote. Glad you were blessed by the revelation.
Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC on October 16, 2010:
This Hub touched my heart, thank you so much my new friend!!! Awesome I voted!!!! Praise God!
Tamarajo (author) on September 15, 2010:
Thank you for stopping by as well Chin Chin.
You summarized the revelation nicely. "In Christ" takes on a whole new meaning in light of being on the inside of His covenant.
Thank you for your insightful comment
Tamarajo (author) on September 15, 2010:
Blessed as always His daughter to have you stop by. I am glad you are finding the revelations useful. When I discover these things I get so excited and can't wait to share them always hoping someone will find them as exciting as I do and be helped in understanding Him and His word in a greater way.
Chin chin from Philippines on September 15, 2010:
Truly, by remaining in the boundaries of God's mercy by covenanting ourselves with God, we will continue to experience His love, protection and favor. Thanks Tamarajo for another inspiring in-depth word study. God bless you.
His daughter on September 14, 2010:
As always, I enjoy reading your hubs. Several I have printed out so I can refer back to them again. I have enjoyed getting more into the Hebrew roots as well as it sure does bring God's Word alive and those hidden secrets waiting there to be discovered. God bless.
Tamarajo (author) on September 14, 2010:
Thank you as well for reading Fred Allen. His Word is stunning isn't it? It is more than we ever could imagine. I am happy you were blessed by it.
May he who reads the revelation run (Habakkuk 2:2)
Tamarajo (author) on September 14, 2010:
lifegate thank you for the thoughtful comment. It is a pleasure to search His Word and truth. I enjoy it above all else. Grateful that others are able to glean from the teachings.
fred allen from Myrtle Beach SC on September 14, 2010:
I am humbled by your knowledge and your ability to impart that knowledge. God has given us a precious gift in you. I am amazed at this grace filled message. You are a light shining in this dark world. Thank You Lord for Tamarajo!
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on September 14, 2010:
TJ, thanks again for a very well written and informative hub. You really help to give insight into the Scriptures. Thanks again for your diligence.
Tamarajo (author) on September 13, 2010:
Learning never ceases with Him. At least I hope not. I think God is the most fascinating of anything or anyone to study. His Word and ways never cease to amaze me.
Thank you for visiting. I'm glad you enjoyed it and Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
exjwlaurie on September 13, 2010:
Wow sister! This is awesome. You have so much here--it will take me another time or two to grasp all!
What a wonderful and loving thing to share so much good research with us! Truly--I am so impressed by this wonderful work of love--in print form! Thank you!