The Names of God: Elohim Chaseddi

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Whatever else may be said of him, nobody would accuse David of enjoying a trouble-free walk with the Lord. From the first moment he stepped into the proverbial limelight, a target was placed squarely on his back. Early, his most prominent enemy was the very king he had been appointed to replace: King Saul.

In 1 Samuel 18, Saul hatched a plot for David to be killed in battle. He promised David his daughter, Michal, as wife for “no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 18:25). Saul felt confident that the young man who had killed the giant Goliath surely could not singlehandedly defeat a hundred valiant Philistine soldiers. As always, he gravely underestimated his young rival—or, more specifically, his young rival’s God—who quickly returned with double the required bride-price. Michal became David’s wife and loved him dearly. “So Saul was David’s enemy continually” (v. 29).

Soon after, Saul instructed his son, Jonathan, to kill David, only to discover that he, too, was loyal to David and refused to do as the king instructed. Jonathan managed to dissuade his father but nevertheless warned David of the threat (19:1–7). When David again proved victorious in battle against Philistia, Saul attempted but failed to kill him with a spear (19:8–10). Undeterred, “Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, ‘If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’ So Michael let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped” (19:11–12).

How would you have responded if you were in David’s shoes? David responded with his pen: He wrote Psalm 59. This psalm, according to its inscription, was written “when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him.” It is a psalm in which David pleads with Yahweh to deliver him from his enemies, from those who were rising against him to kill him. Though he had done nothing deserving of this vitriol, they nevertheless treacherously plotted evil against him.

As he prayed in this context, David uttered the divine name that we are considering this week: Elohim Chaseddi. Listen: “My God in his steadfast love”—Elohim Chaseddi—“will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.” The CSB speaks of “my faithful God,” while the NKJV renders it “my God of mercy.”

“God” translates the Hebrew Elohim, while “steadfast love” or “faithful” or “mercy” translates the Hebrew chesed (chaseddi). The Hebrew word chesed (or hesed) is found nearly 250 times in the Old Testament and is translated with an array of English words: “great kindness” (Genesis 19:19); “steadfast love” (Genesis 24:12); “loyalty” (2 Samuel 2:5); “merciful” (1 Kings 20:31); “favour” (Esther 2:9); etc. It is a rich Hebrew word for which English equivalent exists. Sandra Richter suggest that “the best translation of this term is simply ‘covenant faithfulness.’” Indeed, the word is frequently found in the context of God’s covenant faithfulness to his people. That is the case in Psalm 59.

David was a young man when he wrote these words. He had not yet been recognised as king in Israel, though Samuel had already anointed him as such, signifying the fact that he was God’s chosen one. In fact, when Samuel described David as “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), he was using language that was employed in the ancient world of a covenant between a sovereign and his suzerain. The idiom does not speak of David’s affection for or obedience to Yahweh but was a way for a sovereign to designate a suzerain of his choice (“the suzerain of his heart”). The relationship between a sovereign and a suzerain was a covenantal one. David was, therefore, Yahweh’s covenantal choice as Israel’s king.

But why all this talk about covenants? It is important to understand this background because David’s confidence was in Elohim Chaseddi’s covenant faithfulness. He knew that he had done nothing deserving of Saul’s hatred (v. 3). It was through no fault of his that his enemies were pursuing him (v. 4). But he did not appeal to some notion of worth or a sense of entitlement. He was not persuaded that God would deliver him because he deserved it. He was persuaded that Elohim Chaseddi would deliver him because of his covenant faithfulness. And though he wasn’t reckless around Saul, he knew that the king would not kill him because Yahweh had appointed him as king in Saul’s place and Yahweh would protect him in order to keep his promises. “I will sing aloud of your steadfast love [chesed] in the morning” (v. 16).

So how should this revelation of God as El Chaseddi—the God of covenant faithfulness—encourage us and drive our worship and adoration this week? Though we could list many more, let me suggest just four things that we should hold before us.

First, let us reflect on the fact that God’s covenant faithfulness is the source of our salvation. Jeremiah wrote, “Because of the LORD’s chesed we do not perish, for his mercies never end” (Jeremiah 3:22, CSB). If it were not for Yahweh’s chesed, we certainly would perish. We would be “consumed” (NKJV). Those who do not experience chesed will perish and be consumed.

As you pray to God this week, remember that you pray to a God whose covenant faithfulness secured your salvation. Thank him for that gift.

Second, realise that chesed is our encouragement in suffering. Consider Joseph: “The LORD was with Joseph and showed him chesed and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:21). We can barely imagine what it must have been like for Joseph to be sold into slavery by his brothers. He had been given dreams by God showing that he would rule over his brothers. He was favoured in his household. Suddenly, that was stripped for him and he found himself a household servant for an Egyptian governor. Worse, he found himself in prison on the basis of a fabricated accusation of sexual assault. Many people have walked away from the faith for far less. But Joseph didn’t. Why? Because Yahweh showed him chesed in his suffering.

As you pray to God this week, realise that chesed can sustain you as it saved you. As you face sickness, bereavement, and unemployment, tempted to think that this is not what you signed up for, be encouraged that the God of covenant faithfulness can sustain you in your trial.

Third, be encouraged that Yahweh’s chesed is your hope in time of need. The sons of Korah prayed, “Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your chesed” (Psalm 44:26).

This week, you might find yourself in genuine need. You may be in need of basic daily necessities. You may be in need of encouragement. You may be in need of healing. Pray to the God of covenant faithfulness to supply what you need and trust him to do that on the basis of his covenant faithfulness. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. He has promised to provide your every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Believe him. Trust him.

Fourth, and finally, consider the fact that our experience of chesed flows into our expression of chesed. We will never show the steadfast chesed that Elohim Chaseddi shows to us, but we are called nevertheless to display it to others. “What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

As you pray this week, ask God to help you to be a channel of chesed to others. Bask in the truth of divine covenant faithfulness, but allow Yahweh’s supply to you to overflow in supply to others.

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