August 2: “Full of Hesed & Truth” (John 1:1-5, 9-14)


We are in a series called “The God of Hesed.” Today’s message is the third one in the series and it’s entitled “Full of Hesed and Truth.”
        I’ve mentioned in the beginning of the series that the word “hesed” may be the most important word in the Old Testament, appearing nearly 250 times.
        Then how about in the New Testament? Is there a Hebrew concept of Hesed in the New Testament?
        One of the clues is found in the Septuagint, which is the first Greek translation of the Old Testament.
        How did the 72 scholars translate the Hebrew word hesed into Greek? About seven Greek words were used to translate hesed, but in the vast majority of cases (almost 200 times) hesed was translated as “mercy.”
        The New Testament concept of mercy is rooted in the Hebrew hesed. But God’s hesed is most prominently displayed in the person of Jesus Christ.

Let us turn to John 1:1-5, 9-14. Let us read the text, alternating the verses.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
– We will jump to verse 9 –
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

We know that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. Though NT was composed in Greek, the majority of the writers were Jewish Christians. Luke was the only Gentile author, though a minority opinion is that he may have been a Hellenized Jew.
        Though NT authors wrote in Greek, they thought like a Hebrew. Their fundamental worldview is not derived from Greek philosophy but from the Hebrew Bible.
        John opens his gospel with this phrase, “In the beginning was the Word.”
        “In the beginning” echoes the very first verse of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
        And “the Word” in Greek is “logos.” Because logos has certain philosophical connotations, many Western scholars assumed that John had Greek philosophy in mind and was trying to connect with his Greek readers.
        But that’s not what John was thinking. Come on. He’s a Jewish fisherman! He did not know Greek philosophy. What he had in mind was the Hebrew word “Debar,” which usually refers to God’s spoken word. And that’s how God created the universe. The Word was with the Father from the beginning and was intimately involved in the creation of the cosmos.
        In verse 14, John says that this Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. This Word is Jesus, the Son of God who is full of grace and truth. Once again John is not thinking of Greek concept of grace and truth. He is thinking of the Hebrew expression.
        In the first message, I’ve mentioned that “hesed” is a word with an enormous mass or linguistic gravity. It tends to pull other words into its orbit. There are several words that hesed draws to itself and the most common word is “emet,” which means “faithful,” “reliable,” “trustworthy,” or “true.”
        The phrase, “hesed va emet,” appear many times throughout the Old Testament. Just a few examples:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not withheld his hesed va emet from my master.” (Genesis 24:27 / kindness & faithfulness)

“If you don’t report our mission, we will show hesed va emet to you.” (Joshua 2:14 / kindness & faithfulness)

“Your hesed va emet will always guard me.” (Psalm 40:11 / love & truth)

“May hesed va emet go before you.” (Psalm 89:14 / love & truth)

But the most significant occurrence of this pair is found in Exodus 34:6. God reveals himself to Moses as compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in “hesed va emet.”
        God reveals that in himself, love and faithfulness have come together in overflowing abundance. When John describes Jesus, he incorporates the same notion of fullness: Jesus is full of, abounding in, overflowing with hesed va emet.
        John is making an explosive claim in his first chapter. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s hesed va emet. This man Jesus is God, the same Yahweh who created the universe in the beginning. This is an open declaration of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Having the same nature of Yahweh means that Jesus will also be treated in the same way by the Israelites.
        How did Israelites treat their God? They misunderstood him, did not believe in him, rejected and abandoned him again and again. The Israelites failed to grasp the true character of their God who is full of hesed va emet. They suspected that God had lured them into the wilderness only to kill them. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, the Israelites did not believe that God wanted the best for them. They refused to enter into the promised land.
        God told Moses “How long will they despise me? How long will they refuse to believe in me despite all the signs I have performed in their sight?”

That is how Jesus felt on earth as well.
John says “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (v. 5, NKJV)
“He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.” (v. 11, NKJV)

In the Gospel of John, almost every statement of Jesus is misunderstood by the people.
        When Jesus spoke of new spiritual birth, Nicodemus could not understand how a person can be born a second time. When Jesus spoke of the living water, the Samaritan woman only thought of physical water. When Jesus spoke of himself as the living bread, people thought only about getting the physical bread.
        Though they saw many signs performed by Jesus, people refused to believe him.
        Jesus was frustrated with people’s unbelief. In John 8:46 Jesus says to the Jews, “If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me?”
        It was not just with Jews, but Jesus was frustrated with the unbelief of his own disciples as well. In Mark 9, a demon possessed boy was brought to the disciples, but they could not cast it out. Jesus said “O unbelieving people. How long must I remain with you? How long must I put up with you?”
        The Jews, the children of Abraham, refused to believe the Son of God, rejected him, and crucified him.
        And yet Jesus is full of hesed va emet. He did not come to condemn but to save. Because of his hesed and emet, Jesus will die for his people on the cross. And his sacrifice will enable people not only to be declared righteous, but to be adopted as God’s children.
        “But to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

In Knowing God, J.I. Packer says that adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers.
        “In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship. He establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is a greater.”
        What sinners deserved is God’s wrath, but because God is full of hesed va emet, God wants to adopt us as his children in order to give us everything.
        It is in adoption that we experience God’s hesed. Though God owes us nothing, God gives us everything through Jesus Christ.
        Because our heavenly Father is full of hesed va emet, he is always more ready to hear than we pray, and always willing to give more than we deserve or desire. Jesus says “if you then though evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”
        To believe in Jesus is not just believing what Jesus had done for you to be saved. It is also to believe in who he is, that Jesus is Yahweh, who is full of hesed va emet. Jesus is abounding in love and faithfulness, mercy and trustworthiness, grace and truth.
        God’s hesed va emet gives us confidence not only to ask for things we do not deserve but confidence for all our living. Since nothing can separate us from God’s love, we are more than conquerors. Our adoption as God’s children guarantees that we will be like Christ.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we will be like him. For we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Our father in heaven is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in hesed va emet. His Son and Our Lord Jesus Christ is just like the Father. Jesus is also compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, full of hesed va emet.
        We can easily point our fingers at the Israelites in the Old Testament times and at the Jews in the time of Jesus for their unbelief in God’s hesed va emet.
        But we have the same problem. When things do not go well for us, we have a hard time believing that God loves us and cares for us. We do not believe that God is full of loving kindness and faithfulness. Instead we choose to believe the lie of the Devil.
        When the Devil tempted Eve and Adam, he made them doubt God’s loving kindness. “Hey, God told you not to eat this fruit because God knows that you will be like him. God was hiding something good from you. He does not have your best interest at heart.”
        In essence, Satan was telling them that God was lying to them. The tragedy is that Adam and Eve believed Satan more than God.

In John 8, when Jesus expressed his frustration at Jews unbelief, he says that they don’t believe him because they are listening to the lies of the Devil. Jesus said when the Devil lies, he speaks his native language for he is the father of lies.
        Nothing hurts God more as when his children believe that God does not love them and care for them. Satan is constantly at work to make us doubt God’s hesed and goodness.
        When difficulties arise, Satan speaks lies to us. “Yeah. God has forgotten you. He does not really care.”
        When we fail and feel guilty, the evil one makes us doubt God’s love and goodness. “You’ve blown it again. How can you expect God to forgive you? He is very disappointed in you. Why would he love you?”
        When we hear these lies of the evil one, we need to counter them with the truth of God’s word. We do not want to make the same mistake that Adam and Eve and the Israelites made. We need to believe in God’s word and reject the word of the Devil.

So let us hear this good news and believe it and receive God’s gifts for us.
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of hesed and faithfulness.

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