Love ‘loving-kindness’ – Micah 6:8

It is not only the Jewish people who love Micah 6:8 for it’s simple, yet extremely powerful message and instruction of how to live right before the Almighty.

This passage is also a favourite of many Christians (though it appears most of them have never looked very deeply at this verse in its broader context, and in particular at the truth shared in Micah 6:6).

But I do not wish that to detract from my recent, and fresh insight, on this passage that I have loved and very often meditated on over many years.

There are of course many English versions, and as is normal when trying to translate truth from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures into other languages, often something is lost in the translation.

Consider a few of these English versions:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” – KJV

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – NIV

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – ESV

Quite a few are very similar and appear (as usual) to copy the KJV.

The Complete Jewish Bible (David Stern) is a little different:

“Human being, you have already been told what is good, what Adonai demands of you — no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God.” – CJB

The Hebrew word חֶסֶד (chesed) is the word being translated as ‘kindness’ (ESV) and ‘mercy’ (KJV & NIV), and as ‘loving-kindness’ in many other places.

In fact, the word ‘chesed’ which occurs hundreds of times in the Tanakh (The Hebrew Scriptures) is most commonly translated as ‘grace’ throughout the New Testament (for some depth and interesting analysis of this aspect see my article ‘Amazing Grace’ here http://goo.gl/L9HgQo).

But note that if we use the translation ‘loving-kindness’ in particular to help us see the full picture here, we have the injunction that we are called to ‘love loving-kindness’.

We are to love showing and giving grace; to love acting with mercy, to LOVE being kind. We are not to just BE kind, but to LOVE being kind!

Kindness, mercy, grace should be so much a part of our heart that we can’t help practicing this attribute of the Almighty whose image we are made in!

You may ask ‘How do we get this way if we are not already in this place?’ I think part of the answer is to act as if our heart already loves being kind and gracious and full of compassion, and therefore we must do acts of loving kindness. It’s almost like ‘fake it to you make it’.

The more we act this way, the more the neural pathways in our brains will be stimulated to create a new pathway of truth and a new mindset, and a new heart, where we increasingly become ‘lovers of loving-kindness’.

In other words, in living this call we in fact circumcise our own hearts! (Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 4:4).

 

Thanks to the Mussar teaching of Alan Morinis in ‘Everyday Holiness: The Spiritual Path of Mussar’ for this insight. 

 

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Revealing God: Kindness in the midst of awesome power

In this weeks Torah Portion (Exodus 6:2-9:35) we read about the story of Exodus and the great plagues of Egypt.

The Pharoah, the King of Egypt has for months and months hardened his heart against the Hebrew people despite all the increasingly miraculous events demonstrating the great power of he Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Then we read about the great plague of hail and finally, Pharoah recognizes the righteousness of YHVH and his and his peoples own sinfulness.

What was it that lead him to recognize YHVH at this time when he had already witnessed YHVH’s great power?

He already knew that the God of Israel was a mighty god who had great power over nature, but in the events surrounding this plague he saw the kindness of YHVH.

Just read this section of the story below:

Exodus 9:13
Then the LORD said to Moses, Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.

14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.

15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.

16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

17 You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.

18 Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.

19 Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.

20 Then whoever feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses,

21 but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the LORD left his slaves and his livestock in the field.

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt.

23 Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.

24 There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.

25 The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field.

26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail.

27 Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, This time I have sinned; the LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.

Read verse 19 again:

“Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.”

Remember, that the Pharaoh is a man of great power over his nation and people. Yet here, in the midst of this great display of Someone else with incredible  power, the Pharaoh sees the Great Power offering a way out, offering a hand of kindness, to those who heed His warning from amongst the Egyptians.

Some of the Egyptians did hear and heed this call, this offer of kindness and brought their slaves and animals inside and saved them from the great hail.

Pharaoh recognizes the God of Israel, not just because of His great power, he had been witnessing this already for some time, but because of His grace, His offer of kindness extended even to the Pharaoh and his people.

Here is a great example that kindliness is Godliness; that extending ‘unmerited favour’ (grace), especially from a position of great power and authority, so powerfully demonstrates the truth and validity of God, and especially to those most resistant, most ‘hardened’ against Him.

When we reflect on this powerful message we might like to consider how, we being made in the image of God, might be effective in helping others to recognize Him.

Those of us who are parents can certainly use this approach in our interactions with our children, and quite probably almost all parents do to some degree. We might even reflect on how this kindness of our own parents helped us come to recognize the truth and righteous of the Almighty.

What about other situations where we have some power over others who we know, who have hardened hearts and don’t accept the God of Israel?

We might wish to try and teach them of all His awesome power and how He is manifest in this Creation of His. And yet, perhaps they already know this, even in their hardened hearts?

Perhaps what will most impact them is where we offer them a kindness, a hand of grace that is unexpected and even seemingly uncalled for. Surely this is how we can best demonstrate in our actions that truth that ‘God is righteous’ and that He loves us.

Shalom!

Thanks to Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier for sharing this insight – see http://www.aish.com/tp/i/shmuz/185780532.html