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Emeth and Hesed

Posted by Colby Kinser on

It doesn't take long at Grace Fellowship for someone to hear me use one or both of these Hebrew words, emeth (truth) and hesed (lovingkindness). These words carry far more than a single English translation can convey.

Both words are prominent in the Old Testament, but interestingly, they appear together in several places to describe God's actions and values. That's remarkable because they can seem like they are words in tension - the truth can hurt and lovingkindness can tempt us to bend the truth in order to remain kind. The old adage, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" basically says to keep emeth and hesed away from each other.

But Scripture puts them together. The New Testament uses similar Greek words together, as well. "Jesus is full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Or in our passage for Sunday, because of grace Paul writes to the Roman church boldly (Rom 15:15). Words that seem in tension, but are in perfect, full harmony in Jesus and in His Word.

Many authors have written on the idea of these two words together. For example, https://members.classicalconversations.com/article/two-words-encouragement and https://repository.westernsem.edu/pkp/index.php/rr/article/download/283/295 . Just search the internet for those two words and you'll find all kinds of writings, images, and videos - some good, some not so good.

Thank the Lord for giving us both! If He gave us only truth, it would be harsh. If He gave us only grace, then we would have no anchor or standard. Jesus came full of grace and truth, and that's the only way we can be saved.

To follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we can relate to each other with both emeth and hesed ... loving each other enough to speak the truth  and realizing that true lovingkindness can only be expressed with the truth.

(image: Historic American Engineering Record, U.S. Department of the Interior. Martin Stupich, photographer. / Public domain)

Tags: truth, grace, boldness, hesed, tension, lovingkindness, emeth