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The Lovingkindness of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 14, 2024 12:01 am

The Lovingkindness of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 14, 2024 12:01 am

By covenant oath, God has committed His love to those whom He has redeemed in Christ. Today, R.C. Sproul describes the steadfast nature of the Lord's love for His covenant people.

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The love by which God exercises His steadfast mercy and loyalty to us is so clearly demonstrated. The essence of chesed is found on the cross when Christ purchases us from slavery. Adultery is such a grievous sin because it can divide marriages, destroy families and reveals the betrayal of unfaithfulness. And even though we may not have experienced the consequences of someone breaking the seventh commandment in our families, most of us have felt the sting of betrayal to one degree or another. And it's against the backdrop of this fallen and sinful world that we see the faithful, loyal, loving kindness of God shine so bright.

I'm Nathan W Bingham and this is the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. As it's Valentine's Day today, many people are declaring or reaffirming their love for each other. I believe it's a fitting occasion to pause and to consider the love of God and in particular today, R.C. Sproul will help us reflect on a superlative kind of love chesed in the Hebrew, often translated as His mercy, kindness, loyal love, faithfulness or loving kindness. So what does this kind of love look like?

Here's Dr. Sproul. Today we're going to look at the loyal love of God. Before I do that, I have a confession to make. When I was in college and in seminary, I studied the Greek language for six years, and so I got a good background and foundation in biblical Greek. However, the only exposure I had to Hebrew was one semester in seminary where I missed half of the semester with illness. And so my background in Hebrew is very weak. In fact, when I was coming home from graduate school in the Netherlands to fly back to America, I was overweight and I didn't have enough money to pay for the fine. And so what I did to compensate for the problem was I left my Hebrew Bible in Schipul Airport, and that got me under the weight limit because that thing was so big.

And after I got to this country, I never bothered to buy another one. So that my knowledge of Hebrew is abysmal. I can barely make it through the alphabet, but with the help of dictionaries, I sort of wander around it. But I'm not a scholar of ancient Hebrew by any means. But there is one word in Hebrew, a few words that I know, one that is so central and so important to the whole concept of the love of God that we find in the Old Testament. It's a word that occurs over and over and over again, and it is the word chesed. And that word has been translated in many, many different ways. Sometimes it is simply translated by the word mercy. Sometimes it is translated by the word kindness. Sometimes it is translated by the phrase covenant, love.

The most common translation is through the single word, the compound word loving kindness, and though in some instances it's translated by the phrase the loyal love of God. And this concept is found very early in the Pentateuch, and it is the word that is used to describe God's relationship to the people of Israel when He brings them out of bondage into the Exodus and pledges to them that He would be their God, and they would be His people. And so by covenant oath, God commits His love to the nation that He has formed out of their slavery. And the bond of that covenant is this idea of chesed, or steadfast love, or loving kindness. Remember again in the Old Testament prophet Micah where people try to do what we do today.

We want to have everything boiled down to three easy lessons, and so I'm sure the prophet was bothered by people who wanted the whole of the responsibility of a Jew to the covenant Lord to be spelled out in simple phrases. And the question that is asked there is, what is it that the Lord requires of you? And the answer that the prophet Micah delivers from the mouth of God is, here is what the Lord requires of you, to do justice or righteousness, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

And you think about it for a minute. If we could follow that abbreviated condensation, the crystallization of the essence of a godly life, it boils down to those three things, to do what is right, to love mercy, to walk humbly with God. Well, the second part of that injunction, to love mercy, is the word chesed. Here's what God requires of you, Micah is saying, that you not only do what is right, but that you manifest loving kindness, steadfast love, or what I'm calling here the idea of loyal love. I had a friend who was a seminary student of mine many years ago.

He's now been in the pastorate for several years. And he told me, he said, that they have an expression in their family that they use quite frequently. And I said, what's that expression? He said, at our house, we talk about that we stick with the stuck. I said, stick with the stuck? I never heard an expression like, what's it mean to stick with the stuck? And he said, you know, we stick with the stuck.

I said, no, I don't know. What do you mean we stick with the stuck? And he said, that means that in our family, we stick together, no matter what. You know, that's one of the beautiful things about the family unit, that where you're involved in relationships that it's very hard to bail out of because you're kin, because you're family. You only have one mother in this world.

You only have one father in your world. And it's a great tragedy when that relationship is destroyed. And how great it would be for our country if everybody would adopt that motto in their homes, we stick with the stuck. That is an expression that communicates what Micah is talking about when he says we ought to love mercy, that we should be steadfast and loyal in our love. Now, again, as I said, this idea of the loyal love of God is found throughout the Old Testament, in many, many cases. But the clearest, I think, expression of it anywhere in the Bible is found in the book of the prophet Hosea. We say of Amos that the basic theme of Amos is the justice of God, doing what is right.

But the basic theme of Hosea is loving mercy. And so let's take a few minutes to recall the message of the book of Hosea. Let me begin in the fourth chapter, jump ahead a little bit, in the first verse where we hear this call of solemn assembly, where chapter 4 begins with these words, Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge, or the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. Now, what is happening here is that Hosea is functioning in the role of the prophet as a prosecuting attorney.

He's giving a subpoena. He's announcing a lawsuit from the covenant Lord God to a people who have betrayed God and have gone into such disloyal behavior that they have committed spiritual adultery. And so now the prophet gives this summons, this call to solemn assembly, Hear, O Israel, the Lord has a controversy. He's not saying, let's get together for a little fireside chat that God wants to have with you. God is angry, and He is pronouncing His judgment now upon you. Now the question is, what is it that precipitated this prophetic subpoena from God?

Well, let's look. The Lord has this controversy because there's no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. Now what's He saying here? Not that you people are uneducated, not that you're unscientific, it's not that you don't have any sophisticated knowledge, but when He says there's no truth in this land, the truth that God is talking about here is the truth of Himself, that the truth of God had been eclipsed, the truth of God had been neglected, the truth of God had been obscured, the Word of God had been repudiated. How does this sound like our own times? And God calls them to task.

He said, here's why I have this controversy, because there's no truth anymore. And secondly, there's no mercy or there's no loyalty. There's no steadfast love.

I look down and I don't see this. This is the basis of my relationship with you people, and I can't find it in Israel. There's no truth, no mercy or knowledge of God in the land. What are the consequences of that? Let's hear what He says, killing and stealing and committing adultery. They break all restraint, godlessness, lawlessness, bloodshed upon bloodshed. Therefore, the land mourns, and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Even the fish of the sea will be taken away. And then later on He says, my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. My people, the people that I have chosen, the people I redeemed through the Exodus, are now being destroyed, not for lack of food, not for lack of military power, but for lack of knowledge of me. And because you have rejected this knowledge, I also reject you from being priests for me. And because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine God saying to anybody, I'm going to forget your kids? But that's my judgment because you have forgotten me. I made you a nation of priests. I've called you to be a light to the Gentiles, but you have removed yourself from covenant loyalty. Now let's go back to the opening chapter of Hosea to catch the picture of how God deals with this. The book begins with these words. When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, go and take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.

And so he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblet, and she conceived and bore him a son. And the Lord said to him, call him Jezreel. For yet a little while, and I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel in the house of Jehu, I will bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel, and it shall come to pass in that day that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. Your child will be an omen for what is to come. The northern kingdom is going to be destroyed and carried away captive.

And that's why I want you to call this child Jezreel. And she conceived again and bore a daughter, and God said to him, call her name Lo Ruhamah, which means no more mercy. For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away.

The end of Chazad. You reject me, I reject you. This is a bill of divorcement that God is giving to an adulterous people.

Call her name Lo Ruhamah. No more mercy for you. But then he says, I will have mercy on the house of Judah. I will save them by the Lord their God.

I will not save them by bow nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen. And so he still holds out hope for a remnant that will be redeemed. And now when she had weaned Lo Ruhamah, she conceived again and bore a son. And God said, oh, this is the one that I feel is most poignant. He says, call his name Lo Ami, which means literally not my people.

Call your son, not my people. I remember this is the announcement of God to a nation that he had nurtured and birthed, and he said, you will be my people. I will be your God. And now he says, Lo Ami, not my people. For you are not my people, and I will not be your God.

However, that word is so important in the Scriptures. He says, the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, you are not my people, that there it shall be said to them, you are sons of the living God. And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together and appoint for themselves one head. They shall come up out of the land.

Great will be the day of Jezreel. Say to your brethren, my people, and to your sisters, the chesed is shown, is made manifest. So that the last statement, the end of the story is not, Lo Ami, but Ami, you will be my people, and I will continue my steadfast love, my loyal love to you. In the meantime, chapter 2, bring charges against your mother.

Bring charges, she is not my wife nor am I her husband. Let her put away her harlotries from her sight and her adulteries from between her breasts, lest I strip her naked and expose her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness and set her like a dry land to slay her with thirst. And on and on the announcement of judgment goes throughout the second chapter. And then we get later on in the second chapter all the way to verse 19, the hope for the future when God says, But I will betroth you to me forever. Yea, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in loving kindness and mercy. I will get engaged to you again. I'm going to remarry you in spite of your adultery. My chesed will triumph in this relationship, and you shall know the Lord. And I will sow for her myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy. And I will say to those who were not my people, You are my people, and they will say, You are my God. And now the instructions come to Hosea in chapter 3, and the Lord said to me, Go again. Love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery.

Just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel who looked to other gods and loved the raisin cakes of the pagans. So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, one and one-half homers of barley. And I said to her, You shall stay with me many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man, and so will I be toward you. And we have this glorious remarriage again with the triumph of the love of God. But notice that he has to go and purchase his bride out of slavery. If we go back to Exodus, to the holiness code, you will recall the strange laws that are set forth there about how those who have gone into indentured servanthood must be redeemed with a bridal price. If a man is in bankruptcy and he owes somebody money, he can work that off by becoming an indentured servant to him. And if he comes in with a wife and with children to that status and situation of bondage, and he works for his seven years and when he is freed, then the wife and the children he brought in are freed with him. But we are told in Exodus, this very strange thing, that if he gets married while he's in servitude and he marries one of the other servants, or perhaps even the daughter of the master, and has children by them, and the time comes for him to be liberated, he can go free, but he can't take his wife with him or his children.

He has to go out after he's satisfied his debt. He has to become wealthy enough to afford to take care of his wife and his children, and he has to come in and pay the bridal price in order to redeem his wife. And that esoteric principle in Old Testament Israel is elevated in the New Testament as a way of describing the magnificent ministry of Christ himself, who comes and purchases his bride out of slavery to Satan. Christ pays the bride price. This is what Paul is getting at when he says, you are not your own, but you have been bought with a price. You have been purchased by the blood of Christ.

He purchased his bride and purchased her out of slavery. That follows exactly what is going on here in the story of Gomer and Hosea, as well as in the laws of Exodus, so that the love by which God exercises his steadfast mercy and loyalty to us is so clearly demonstrated. The essence of chesed is found on the cross when Christ purchases us from slavery. Finally, this principle is seen in Paul's letter to the Romans, when after he goes through the magnificence of the providence of God by which we are adopted into his family that we've already looked at.

In verse 31 of chapter 8, he says this, what shall we say then to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? If God is for us, who can be against us? This Latin phrase is one of the most glorious of all in church history, deus pro nobis, God for us.

That captures this whole concept of loyal love. What shall we say then? If everybody's against us, so what? If God is for us, it doesn't matter who is against us. He who will not spare His own Son, but delivered Him us for all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God elect? It is God who justifies. Who is He who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Now here it comes.

Here comes the rhetorical question that can only have one answer. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation?

Can that do it? Distress? Persecution? Famine? Nakedness? Peril?

Sword? As it is written, for your sake we are killed all day long. We are counted as sheep for the slaughter, yet in all these things we are more than conquerors, more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other created thing, notice that this list is not intended to be exhaustive but rather illustrative or representative. None of these things shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. See, when Paul says, who shall separate us from the love of God, the answer to that question is nothing.

No one, no power, because chesed, the loyal love of God, is not only eternal. It's not only a holy love. It's an immutable love. It's a love that is inseparable so that we who have the Father's love have it now and forever.

An immutable love. We who have the Father's love have it now and forever. That's a truth that should motivate us in our service and devotion to the Lord.

You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was a message from R.C. Sproul on the loving kindness of the Lord, a love that's difficult for us as we see through a glass darkly to truly comprehend. Continue this deep dive into the Bible's teaching on God's love when you request the 11-part series along with digital access to the messages and study guide when you give a gift of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. You can also make your donation by calling us at 800-435-4343. Your support fuels the proclamation of the love of God in Christ and the good news of the Gospel.

Give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org. God is love. As we've seen today, he has a faithful, loyal love.

Does that mean that he loves everybody in that same way? Join us tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-14 03:34:09 / 2024-02-14 03:42:41 / 9

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