Proverbs · Wisdom

Proverbial Thoughts on Mercy

Proverbs 4 23

Thoughts on the topic of mercy/steadfast love from the book of wisdom.

Mercy – I’ve always thought of mercy as that attitude which doesn’t punish when punishment is deserved.

An example might be best.

As a young boy I did something that I deserved a whoopin for, and when my dad got home, he asked me what I did, and what I deserved.

He looked down on me and said – Don’t do it again.

I deserved a whoopin. I didn’t get the whoopin. I experienced mercy, by the definition I have supplied above.
I am not convinced this is the best way to look at the topic of mercy. A quick look at Strong’s shows that this term has multiple shades of meaning, such as

  • kindness
  • goodness
  • lovingkindness
  • favour
  • covenental love.

The ESV translates this Hebrew word (חֶסֶד cheçed) as steadfast love in a few of our verses below.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;bind them around your neck;write them on the tablet of your heart.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;bind them around your neck;write them on the tablet of your heart.

Steadfast love and faithfulness are described as a necklace on the neck. A piece of jewelry that is worn to be seen. It is awesome that both terms are used together. How could steadfast love be described that with the term faithfulness. To be steadfast is unmovable, faithful, never giving up.

In the New Testament, there are a number of Greek words that are used to describe love. One definition of the famous agape love goes something like this.
Agape love is the love that is not reciprocal. It loves because it loves. It is a love born out of character, and not conditions. It has a raging stiffness to its approach of seeking the best of the one loved, at it’s own expense.
Steadfast love may be the equivalent.
We are not only to wear these characteristic in our life, but to bury them in our heart, so that the inner man is expressed by the outer man.
Note that we have three responsibilities.
  • Not let them forsake you
    • Funny how steadfast love could forsake one. This is one reason I feel the love described here is not quite the level of apage. I might be wrong, but nevertheless, we have a responsibility to make an environment that is hospitable to both steadfast love and faithfulness
  • Bind them on
    • Wear these in your outer expression. A quiet christian, without words and works of love and faithfulness is disobeying this precept
  • Write them in
    • Bury steadfast love and faithfulness into your thought and heart life. It is to be a basis of the inner life, which ensures hypocrisy in the believers life will be minimized.
Do they not go astray who devise evil?
Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.


In my life, I have experienced much loving kindness.
An example of this loving kindness? I just spent ’bout four hours chatting with my daughter, just sitting and kidding around. She sat with me to chit chat. That, I consider to be a great mercy upon my life.
Do I seek this mercy in my life to increase as I become an even older fart?

Of course!

Therefore, I need to devise good for others. Devise – what a wonderful term to link with good deeds!
A simple plan that any ol’ fool can follow, if he is committed to experiencing steadfast love and faithfulness in his life.
As an aside, notice that steadfast love is linked up with faithfulness again. If that happens again, I’m going to think there is a relationship we need to consider.
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.
OK, I did not see this coming when I chose these three verses originally. Heck, the couplet of steadfast love and faithfulness pops up again.
So what of it?

We have discussed the steadfast love above. The Hebrew term for faithfulness is the term אֶמֶת ʼemeth, with English synonyms of stability, certainty, truth, trustworthiness and of course faithfulness.

When I first come across this term, I wanted to attribute the steadfast love to God and the faithfulness as a requirement of man. I can’t see that! The faithfulness of man is not stable, certain, truthful, trustworthy. Man’s faithfulness hobbles along with spurts and grunts, seeking to please God and finding success in resting in His faithfulness only.
Both of these terms rightly belong to the God of heaven. He alone is the One who naturally exercises steadfast love and faithfulness. It is His nature.
By His characteristics of steadfast love and faithfulness, iniquity is atoned for. The cross is throughout the Word!
Be thankful for our God who is alive again, who provides the life sustaining steadfast love and faithfulness that is our hope.
He is good.
Drop me a line if you would like to discuss the goodness of God or have a testimony of His work in your life.
Be blessed.

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