Chesed —A Word for Love Stronger than Any Other (Is 54:10; Ps 136 +)

  • Through stories of how God relates to humans we learn of a different kind of love that is at the core of who God is.
  • Chesed is utterly faithful, loyal to the very end, a love that will never let you go.
  • When you understand it, there is no word that is more beautiful.

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Video cover image by Anna Sunny Creative Commons CC0


At the core of God’s being is an extraordinary kind of committed love.
If we can grasp the truth of this kind of love,
we will feel a deep security and joy.
Hebrew word: Chesed

  • Reading Genesis it is all too easy to focus on all the bad stuff happening.
    • Humanity is very broken and messy

God reveals himself to us through stories

  • Humankind constantly fails
  • How can God have a relationship with them?
  • Stories of God loving very broken people
  • There is a word for it, the most beautiful word there can ever be: Chesed

Chesed – Psalm 103:11

  1. For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
          so great is his chesed toward those who fear him;
  • The most beautiful word in any language
  • faithful love, loyal love, love that will never let you go
  • 247 times in Old Testament
  • 127 (more than half) found in the Psalms
  • how to pronounce it...


  • On the run from his brother:
    Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you Gen 28:15
    %can you imagine what that felt like?%
  • 20 years later:
    I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of chesed and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, Gen 32:10
  • Near the end of his life:
    …let us go to Bethel, so that I may make an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.Gen 35:3


  • I want you to take in those words for yourself
  • Jacob was a very flawed individual (flaws revealed so that we can identify)
  • If you trust Jesus, then this is your God!
  • If you can take in that last verse, I have done my job today
  • Here is the amazing thing: The requirement was not “be good enough and I will be with you”, but simply trust that I am with you.

Chesed —A Word for Love Stronger than Any Other (Is 54:10; Ps 136 +)

  1. What Chesed is and is not
  2. Some stories about it from the Old Testament
  3. Our experience of Chesed

1. What Chesed is and is not

Secure Attachment

  • fundamental human need to know someone is there for you
  • someone who will never let us go, no matter how bad it gets
  • we belong, we are safe, we are secure
  • “If the sun refuse to shine,
          I would still be loving you.
    When mountains crumble to the sea,
          there will still be you and me.”
                (Robert Plant, 1969)
  • but the best human friend is weak and imperfect

What Chesed is:

  • faithful love
  • e.g. Jacob made them promise not to bury him in Egypt but to take his bones back to the Promised Land—“promise this chesed to me” Gen 47:29
  • love that never gives up, but hangs on to the end
  • loyal love that will never betray us
  • love we can count on, that will never let us down
  • even when we have nothing to give in return!
  • No direct word for it in English.
    • The old King James translators made up a word for it: lovingkindness
      • That captures the love, the kindness, but not the long term faithfulness
    • Newer translations use “steadfast love”, “loyal love”, “unfailing love”, “faithful love”
    • My translation is a bit longer: “love that will never let you go”

What Chesed is not:

  • Opposite: “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
          What shall I do with you, O Judah?
    Your chesed is like a morning cloud,
    like the dew that goes early away.” Hos 6:4
  • Difference between chesed and agape (love)
  • agape is undeserved giving, like giving a banquet to a homeless person
  • chesed is a relationship
  • chesed is taking them home for the rest of their life
  • chesed is committing to care for them to the bitter end—a love that will “never let them go”
  • No direct word in the N.T. Greek
    • Paul describes his friend Onesimus as “faithful and beloved”
    • Jesus in Revelation is the one who is “faithful and true”
  • God’s agape love is for the whole world,
    • Every though we rebelled against him, he sent Jesus to make a way for us to be reconciled
    • It’s a free and undeserved love
    • It does not assume any relationship
  • but his chesed love is promised to those who respond to him
    • Those who trust his offer are brought into a relationship
    • It is still free and undeserved, but it is much, much more.

2. Some stories about Chesed from the Old Testament

2. Stories: Joseph (Genesis 39)

  • Sold by his brothers into slavery (not much chesed!)
  • Slave in Egypt, betrayed by his master’s wife (again…) %ditto%
  1. Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined...
  2. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him chesed. He granted him favor in the sight of the prison warden.
  3. The warden put all the prisoners under Joseph’s care. He was in charge of whatever they were doing.
  4. The warden did not concern himself with anything that was in Joseph’s care because the LORD was with him and whatever he was doing the LORD was making successful.

David’s Story

  • We particularly need chesed when we have problems in our lives!
  • The story of David as he tells it in his songs
  • a story of chesed

Psalm 59 (Saul tried to ambush him)

  1. Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
          protect me from those who rise up against me;
  2. deliver me from those who work evil,
          and save me from bloodthirsty men.
  3. My God in his chesed will meet me;
          God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
  4. But I will sing of your strength;
    I will sing aloud of your chesed in the morning.
    For you have been to me a fortress
          and a refuge in the day of my distress.
  5. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
          for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me chesed.
  • God loves it when we praise him for his chesed because it is a core part of his character

Psalm 52 (Doeg was a traitor who betrayed him)

  1. A Song of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, “David has come to the house of Ahimelech.”
    Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
          The chesed of God endures all the day.
  2. Your tongue plots destruction,
          like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
  3. See the man who would not make God his refuge,
    but trusted in the abundance of his riches
    and sought refuge in his own destruction!
  4. But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
    I trust in the chesed of God forever and ever.
  • In the desert being hunted down like an animal

Psalm 63 (being hunted by Saul)

  1. A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
    O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
          my soul thirsts for you;
    my flesh faints for you,
          as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
  2. Because your chesed is better than life,
          my lips will praise you.
  • Can you connect with this right now?
  • This Psalm is at the end of David’s time of being hunted down by Saul
    • A lower Psalm number does not mean earlier—the Psalms are organized thematically rather than by date

Psalm 18 (Finally he had rest)

  1. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:
    I love you, O LORD, my strength.
  2. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
          my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
          my stronghold.…
  3. Great salvation he brings to his king,
          and shows chesed to his anointed,
                to David and his offspring forever.
  • The story ends with him praising God for his chesed that has kept him through all the troubles
    • But it does not actually end there... The story of Mephibosheth

2 Samuel 9 (David showed chesed )

  1. And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him chesed for Jonathan’s sake?”
  2. And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the chesed of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.”
  3. And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you chesed for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”…
  4. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.
  • Just giving a gift to him would be love, but not chesed
  • Story of the cat

3. Our experience of Chesed

  • We reflect the nature of God when we love others like this
  • If the nature of God is in you, then some of this loyal and faithful love will flow out

God loves to be praised for chesed

  • The Psalms were Vocal and Public
  • God saved me from a car accident. Praise him!
  • Ps 136 “Give thanks to the LORD for he is good, his chesed endures forever”
  • It is the best news we can have
  • We need to emphasize that chesed is at the core of God’s very being, and something he takes great delight in being made known
    • Particularly if we tell our own stories of his faithful love to us.
  • The love of a friend or family member is wonderful, but it’s limited by their resources
    • But to be loved like that by the eternal, infinite God is the best possible news

Isaiah 54:10

  1. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
          but my chesed shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
          says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
  • How can we respond to this?
    • There is another dimension to chesed:

It is the best news we can possibly have:

  • Ps 51:1 David sinned with murder and adultery
  • Have mercy on me, O God, according to your chesed
    According to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
  • It is based on a covenant with God
  • He offers it to us: Isa 55:3:
  • “Incline your ear, and come to me;
          hear, that your soul may live;
    and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
          my unfailing chesed for David.”
  • God’s chesed is going deeper than our sin, our very worst sin
    • This is because it’s based on covenant promises with us
    • A covenant is a relationship that you can enter
  • God is offering you right now enter this covenant
    • It’s a two way thing:
      • You “listen to Jesus”, and you “come to him”
      • Taken together this means you take Jesus as your lord,
    • and he gives you chesed for ever
    • It’s a two way thing—but not very balanced!

Is Attachment a good thing?

  • Some kinds of “spiritual” mental health cures involve “letting go”
  • They say that attachment is at the root of all our problems
  • (This is not intended to be an attack Buddhism, but simply to draw attention to it being the polar opposite to Christianity)
  • The story: when Gautam Buddha was seeking enlightenment, he suddenly realized that he was overly concerned about his wife and newborn son.
    %Buddhist scholars tell us that we are not sure if the baby was 1 day old, or about to be born%
  • He realized that he needed to let go of all attachments, and disappeared for 6 years
    %Buddhist scholars reassure us that he was very wealthy, so he didn’t need to worry about them being cared for%
  • God’s attachment is part of his very being—the Trinity
  • Story of friend who became a Christian.“If you’re loved by the infinite God, what else matters?
    • My prayer is that you understand this so well that you feel it!