I really appreciate the New American Standard Version (NASB) of the Bible. It’s the closest we have to a direct translation, but it’s still readable. People don’t understand how nuanced translating can be. I’d love to know Hebrew and read the Bible in Hebrew, but I’m stuck here in English, appreciating a translation that’s as close as I’m going to get (for now).
Reading Psalm 23, or any other passage deeply ingrained by memorization, feels different. It feels like my mind is reading it faster than I want to. I stumbled, a bit, when I reached verse 9:
“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
The version I have in my head doesn’t say lovingkindness, it says mercy. Today, I was struct by how different those words feel to me. I think I’ve given a weird connotation to mercy. I’ve defined it as a withholding of consequences. Where grace is getting a good thing I don’t deserve, mercy is not getting a bad thing I do deserve. It’s nice, but I don’t know why it feels like it comes with a side-eye and an, “I’ll let you off the hook this time.” Plus, there’s that association to the horrible game we played as kids where you interlocked fingers and tried to bend each other’s knuckles the wrong way. Yelling “mercy” is like tapping out. Stop beating me! Then the other person agrees to stop inflicting pain. That gets a little twisted for me.
But lovingkindness?! That sounds amazing! A kindness fueled by love. This word is everywhere in the NASB translation. Psalm 136, where we usually find the line “His love endures forever” in every verse, is translated as “For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” That definitely doesn’t fit into a Michael W. Smith song as seamlessly, but it’s so rich! It’s also posed as the reason to praise Him.
Many of Israel’s corporate songs used the word lovingkindness. It’s actually a translation of the Hebrew word chesed (which is kind of hilarious to me, because it reminds me of my favorite way to say you’re super mad about something: royally cheesed). I love language.
Anyway, it is a frequently used word to describe the relationship, not only between God and man, but prescribed between man and man. This love and kindness, and lovingkindness is the way we are to approach one another. It is related to the word charity, which also has sadly gained negative connotation. The application, however is beautiful.
How can we be chesed toward each other?
First, we must understand the beauty of it being true about our relationship with God. These three Psalms have a lot to do with being in God’s house. Lovingkindness is linked to forgiveness in 25:10-11.
I want my three applications today to be:
- Considering how I can be loving/forgiving: “Above all, be fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8.
- Considering how I can be charitable/generous: “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” 1 Peter 4:9.
- Considering how I can be kind: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10.