Since we’re #CuratingtheGood this month, we’re studying the Hebrew meaning of the word Tôwb (Strong’s #2896). It is one of the words often used in the Old Testament to describe God’s goodness. Tôwb demonstrates that God’s goodness is something we experience, like a beautiful sight or a sweet taste. The Lord offers us the opportunity to get to know Him, to experience Him personally.
When you say, “I know Matthew West — he’s a great Christian artist and I love his songs. Did you know he writes all of his own lyrics??” Saying this means that you know about a person, but you don’t know him, personally.
When you say, “I know my husband — when I see that look on his face and the droop in his shoulders, I know he has had a tough day. Makes me want to give him a hug!” You’re saying that you know him, personally. You know him by heart.
God wants us to know Him by heart.
When we experience God’s goodness, we get a little taste of what He is like. After that, we can closely identify with Him. We will remember Him, by His goodness. We can describe His character in a very specific way, relating to our history with Him, like David does in Psalm 23.
Surely goodness and mercy [and unfailing love]
shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days]
in the house and in the presence of the Lord.
Oh, mercy! Now that I live in Alabama I just had to say that, y’all. Hee hee! In this verse, “mercy” comes from one of my favorite Hebrew words, HESED. Hesed is God’s covenant love, His compassionate faithfulness. Hesed is God’s basis for covenant with His people.
People are fickle and mean. God is loyal and kind; He is full of hesed. People are driven by selfishness. God operates out of mercy because He loves so completely; He is motivated by hesed. People are quick to anger and often nurse grudges and bitterness. Yahweh is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7, ESV).
Because the Lord is full of hesed, He sent Jesus to fulfill His covenant promises to His people. God has flung open the doors to heaven and invited people from every nation to be part of His family, saying:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Hesed is the Old Testament word for undeserved favor, or what we call grace. Because of hesed, God always fulfills His covenant — He is faithful — the covenant of cleanness, newness and belonging is kept by Him, not by us. His love is strong enough for both His faithless, filthy, outcast people AND Him. We may try His patience and test His hesed, but He is bound to keep the covenant. The Lord is bound by His own character to rescue, redeem, and repurpose those whom He loves.
Yay mercy! Yay hesed! And also, whew! Thank you, Lord for making a plan that doesn’t depend on me.
GOODNESS AND MERCY
In Psalm 23, David describes God as the Good Shepherd, saying that the blessings and love of Yahweh will accompany him forever. What a lovely truth! David’s intimate description of God foreshadows the coming of Jesus. See if you can spot the goodness (the best kind of beauty and sweetness) and the mercy (faithful, compassionate love) in our Good Shepherd, Jesus (John 10:11-18):
- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11).
- “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (v. 14, 15).
- “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (v. 16).
Oh, mercy…someone to fight for me? A hero to rescue you? An attentive and nurturing Good Shepherd to unite the flock? Jesus IS goodness [the picture of beauty and the taste of sweetness] and mercy [faithful love]. Do you see His beauty? Can you taste His sweetness? Do you know His faithful love?