Do you know my Jesus? Have you seen the furious mercy of the interceding judge? Have you heard the thunderous whispers of the Word made flesh who raised no protest at the insults rained upon Him? Look and see Him, the God-Man in blinding white, bloodstained robe; He who sits in Heaven laughing at His enemies, yet weeping along with every broken, “Why, Lord?” He is the foot-washing King who slept in boats, made waves His pavement, paid taxes from a fish, and conquered death by dying. Has there ever been anyone like Him?
Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 1:31, “…as it is written,“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” In this passage, Paul is quoting from the book of Jeremiah:
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight,’ declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23-24
While it may not be the case for you, I often struggle with an internal ranking system that tries to measure others and analyze whether I should feel superior or inferior around them. Most regrettably, this has at times bled into my prayer life; I have approached the Father in the subtle security of the Pharisee in Luke 18 and expected to receive answers from Him because I’m “at least a little holier” than _________. Truly we cannot compare ourselves with ourselves and achieve His calling.
It is interesting to me that God identified our position for boasting by referring to His steadfast love. The Hebrew word is “chesed,” a word our English translations have failed to fully grasp. A simple explanation is that it is grace, mercy, kindness, and goodness curled into one. It is a word of covenant, unshakable and unrelenting in the face of changed circumstance. It invokes a sense of voluntary compulsion, of joyfully inconveniencing oneself to do extravagant good to another person. Extravagant. Like taking the time to create every single snowflake unique even though snowflakes exist for a breath and are gone. Like creating the world in color even though we would not have known to miss it if we only saw in grayscale. “Chesed” is the driving force in the stories you hear of people like Irena Sendler smuggling children to safety during the Holocaust; you see it in Rahab protecting the Hebrew spies from the guards at Jericho at the risk of her own life. It is the attribute of God hardest to understand, for it is the one least like our often fickle, covenant-breaking hearts.
“Chesed” is the fullness of 1 Corinthians 13. We wallow in our desperation to be in the center of whatever God is doing in our region, jockeying for kingdom position based on who has the most successful inner city ministry or the largest Sunday morning attendance. However, the more we look at us the less we look at Him; and He is the only One worthy of praise. “Chesed” fulfills the first commandment of loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength. Committing to love God with this kind of love gives us the power to say, “He must increase and I must decrease.” It is the impetus for loving our enemies and doing good to those who persecute us. It prods us to serve in the house of the Lord when we would rather be sleeping. It requires us to control our tempers, harness our tongues, and keep our promises.
Why is it so important that we not boast about anything until we understand and know God as He of the “chesed” love? Because understanding steadfast love changes everything. Suddenly, our need for validation from others falls to insignificance. Suddenly, we begin to understand the lengths to which God will go to save a human soul from eternal separation. Suddenly, we pray with authority not born from our own merit but from the knowledge that we do not have to twist His arm for answers. “Chesed” dismantles the lie that God is disengaged and disinterested, that He will not do good nor bad; instead it returns us to relationship with the One snatching at any glance we throw His way, the Creator bending down to lock eyes with His creation and say, “I love to talk to you. What’s on your mind?”
Grace to you today. May you “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:18-19)