Last Sunday we spent some time looking at Psalm 101:3, which gives us an important commitment towards holiness: “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me.” I hope that you were able read and memorize that verse this week – and especially I hope you USED it to avoid the enemy’s temptations.
But if we are honest, many of us will say that we did not. We failed to use the word, and indeed failed – perhaps many times – to do what was right when we look back at last week. So is all lost? NO: thank God for His grace. “His grace prevails,” is our “follow up message” of sorts today. Even when we as His people fall short, His grace prevails over us, as we see in Psalm 117:2:
“For His lovingkindness is great toward us …”
I. The Grace That Prevails
First of all, we need to understand just what the Bible is talking about here, when it says that “His LOVINGKINDNESS is great towards us.” What is God’s “lovingkindness”?
The word which the NASB translates “lovingkindness,” is the Hebrew word “CHESED.” It’s hard for us to say this Hebrew word in English, but it’s even more difficult to render a translation of it with any one English word. Thus you see various versions of the Bible translate it differently:
— KJV often translates it “mercy”
— NIV uses the word “love”
— The ESV, a popular translation these days, renders it “steadfast love”
— The New King James calls it His “merciful kindness”
— The Holman says His “faithful love”
— and of course the New American Standard Bible that I use translates it “lovingkindness.”
It is difficult to translate “CHESED” into English with any one word. A doctoral student at Cambridge in England wrote for the C.S. Lewis Institute that “Attempts to define the word have filled scholarly articles, dissertations, and even entire books”! It is such a deep and rich word.
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, a standard in Hebrew exegesis, describes CHESED as kindness to someone who doesn’t deserve it; love, loyalty; “eternal divine kindness”. It says “lovingkindness” is not far from the fulness of the meaning of the word. One scholar says it is the Old Testament version of the New Testament, “God is love.”
Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer of the 1500’s, said he believes CHESED is the best Old Testament expression of the New Testament concept of “grace” — and that’s how I like to translate it. If you look at how often, and in what contexts, the word “CHESED” is used, I think “grace” becomes a pretty good way for us to think of it.
And this CHESED; this “grace” of God is central to understanding Who God is, and what He is about in the Old Testament:
— In Exodus 34:6-7 Moses has asked God to show him His glory, and God allows him to see just a portion of His glory pass by, and as He does, He describes Himself to Moses and says: “YHWH, YHWH God, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in CHESED …”. So God, relating the essence of His character to Moses there, says of Himself that He is “abounding,” running over, with CHESED: “mercy, faithfulness, love, and grace.”
This “CHESED;” this “grace” of YHWH could be considered to be THE central theme of the whole Old Testament: that God created a people, who sinned against Him, and who should have been immediately consigned to judgment — but instead He showed CHESED/grace to them, and promised to send a Redeemer. This is what the whole Old Testament is about: the “CHESED,” the GRACE of God, reaching out to His people.
— The great repeated theme of the Old Testament is “HIs grace endures forever” In fact, if you study this word — which is used 246 times in the Old Testament, it is present in almost every book! — you will see just how central this CHESED/grace of God is in the Old Testament. The mercy, love, undeserved favor, GRACE of God is the theme of the whole Old Testament scriptures. “Give thanks to YWHH, for He is good — for His CHESED is everlasting.” Over and over His CHESED, His grace, is the theme. Everywhere God’s people went, they repeated that phrase: as they prayed their prayers; as they sung in the temple, and when they went into battle, they, would sing and chant: “His CHESED (His grace) endures forever.” (“His CHESED endures forever” was their Old Testament version of “Amazing Grace;” it was the song that everybody in Israel knew: “His CHESED endures forever.”)
So what does this “CHESED,” this “grace” of God, look like in action?
We see illustrations of it from time to time in the Old Testament. At one point in II Samuel 9:3 King David asks if there is anyone remaining of the relatives of Jonathan, to whom he may show “the chesed of God”. And so they did find a relative, Mephibosheth, who was lame in both feet. And David decided to show “the chesed of God” to him.
So what did David do to Mephibosheth? He showed GRACE to him. He took this one who to whom he owed nothing; whom many would considered to be his “enemy,” who was of the household of the previous king; whom many advisors would say should be killed — but instead David showed him CHESED — grace. He restored to him his family’s land, which had been taken away, and he raised him up to eat at his own royal table every night. When he appeared before David, Mephibosheth said: “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” And that is the whole point; that is what grace IS. Grace is doing good to someone who does NOT “deserve” it. Mephibosheth did not “deserve” what David did for him; it was all CHESED. It was all grace.
And this undeserved goodness and grace is how God treats US as His people, the scripture tells us:
— Psalm 103 says “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His CHESED — His grace — towards those who fear Him …”
— Psalm 107 is a Psalm which magnifies the CHESED of God. It says:
— Some people are in chains and darkness because of their rebellion against the words of God, but God brought them OUT of their darkness by His CHESED, and it says “let them give thanks to YHWH for His chesed”! — It goes on to say some are fools who are afflicted because of their iniquities, cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them. And it says “Let THEM give thanks to YHWH for His chesed”!
Over and over Psalm 107 describes how God reached down from heaven and saved people who didn’t deserve it, and repeatedly it says of each group: “Let THEM give thanks to YHWH for His chesed.”
And then Psalm 107 closes: “Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things — and consider the CHESED of YHWH.”
Over and over the Old Testament scriptures point to YHWH as a God of CHESED — of grace, who reaches down and saves the undeserving.
Too often we have bought into the stereotypical picture of the God of the Old Testament as a God of wrath, and that Jesus, or the God of the New Testament, is a God of grace. But nothing could be further from the truth. YHWH, the God of the Old Testament, from the very beginnings of Old Testament scripture, was a God who was “overflowing with CHESED”! He has always been, and always is, a God of GRACE!
SO CHESED is God’s mercy, His love, His undeserved favor, His promise, His GRACE! THAT is what this word is about here. CHESED is the GRACE of God which He promised His people — and ultimately gave us, in Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2 in the New Testament says we were all “dead” because of our trespasses and sins. Just like Mephibosheth said he was a “dead dog,” the Bible says we were ALL “dead” in our sins. But Ephesians 2 goes on to say, “BUT GOD: being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us … made us alive together with Christ (by GRACE you have been saved). Here’s those 3 words people use to try to translate “CHESED” in the Old Testament: mercy, love, grace — those 3 words are what Ephesians 2 tells us that God has done for us in Christ. He showed His CHESED, His mercy, love, and grace and saved us in Christ — NOT because we deserved it; we didn’t. But it is entirely because of His grace: “By grace you are saved through faith” it goes on to say. Just like Mephibosheth, we don’t earn it; we didn’t deserve it. It is all of God’s amazing grace, which “prevails” for us.
Evangelists are always asking people the question: “If you were to stand before God, and He were to ask you ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’, what would you say?” One of my favorite pastors said: “I’d tell Him, ‘You SHOULDN’T let me in!’ I’m only saved by Your GRACE in Jesus Christ”!
I hope that is YOUR testimony today too. If anyone ever asks you why God should let you into heaven, say that: say, “I DON’T deserve to go to heaven. I am only saved by the grace of God, which prevails for me.”
II. What It Means That His Grace “PREVAILS” for us?
The New American Standard translation here says His grace “is great towards us” — and that sounds good, but it is even better than that. The Hebrew word here is not the “typical” word for “great” (“gadol”) instead here it is the word “gabar,” which means “strong, mighty.”
Most of time in the Old Testament this word is translated “prevails” — that is, it is stronger, mightier, than what it is facing; it “prevails” over something else:
— One of the great Old Testament scholars (Kidner) says “it is used of the stronger side in battle.”
— Genesis 7 repeatedly uses this word regarding the flood when it says: “the waters prevailed” upon the earth. The water was greater than the land; it covered up the earth. It “prevailed.”
SO IT IS WITH GOD’S GRACE! His grace is greater; it prevails. But we might ask: what does it “prevail” against?
His grace prevails against our guilt
His grace prevails against our sin
Our sin, against a holy, holy, holy God is very great — But His grace is greater. Thank God, His grace prevails!
For example: We saw last week how King David had made that great commitment: “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me.” But then we saw that David, who made that commendable commitment, ended up falling short of it, didn’t he? He broke that commitment and he sinned, BIG TIME. He “saw” Bathsheba; he DID get lured in by that temptation. He committed adultery with her; then he lied, and he eventually had her husband killed; he just went from one sin to another. David was a BIG-TIME sinner. In fact, someone even wrote me this week, after last week’s message, and asked, do you think David went to heaven, or not? I said, “Yes I believe he did, by God’s grace.”
Psalm 51, which specifically indicates that it was written in the aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba, says: “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your CHESED (your “GRACE”); according to the greatness of Your compassion, blot out my transgression.” And II Samuel 12:13 says that the prophet Nathan said to David, after he confessed his sin: “YHWH has taken away your sin.”
WHY would God forgive David for these horrific sins? He would do it, Psalm 51 says: “According to Your CHESED”! It is His GRACE: “His grace prevails” — even against the worst sins we can imagine — His grace prevails!
The Apostle Peter was the same way, wasn’t he? Oh, he was so full of himself: “Others may deny You, Lord, but I won’t.” No, he won’t just deny Him once — he denied three times that he even KNEW Jesus! He totally failed. But Jesus came back to him, and told him, follow Me, and feed My sheep — His grace was greater than Peter’s sin!
His grace is greater than David’s sin
His grace is greater than Peter’s sin
His grace is greater than the adulterous woman’s sin
Thank God, His grace is greater than MY sin!
And whoever you are, His grace is greater than YOUR sin too!
Just as the hymn says:
“Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!”
Psalm 103 says: “As high as the heavens are above the earth, SO GREAT is His CHESED to those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on His children, so YHWH has compassion on those who fear Him”!
HIS GRACE IS GREATER! “HIS GRACE PREVAILS!”
Now, we need to make sure we do not use God’s grace as an “excuse” to sin. In fact, I John 2 says: “I am writing these things to you, that you may not sin.” But then it goes on to say: “But if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
So the Bible says we are to try NOT to sin. Just as we saw last week, we are to make every effort towards holiness, and not to sin. The grace of God in Christ is NEVER to be taken as an excuse to be lazy, and sin.
But I John says “IF anyone sins” (and Chapter 1 of that book says we ALL DO indeed sin: “if anyone says he has no sin, he is lying and deceiving himself) — what do we do then? Well, it says we have an Advocate — a “lawyer” is another word for it — we have a “lawyer” with the Father, Jesus Christ. When we do sin, we can call our lawyer, and what is going to be the outcome of the case? We already know: “HIS GRACE PREVAILS” in the courtroom of heaven!
Paul said it this way in Romans 5:20: “Where sin abounds grace MORE than abounds” Literally: God’s grace “super abounds”!
The old author of Amazing Grace, John Newton, wrote to a struggling pastor friend of his and said: “Well, when we have said all we can of the aboundings of sin in us, grace still more abounds in Jesus. We cannot be so evil as He is good.” (John Newton to the Rev. Joshua Symonds, Letters of John Newton, Josiah Bull, ed., p. 176)
John Mark McMillan, a more contemporary song writer, put it this way: “If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”!
His grace prevails!
III. For WHOM His Grace Prevails
This is an important question. WHO is this prevailing grace for? The answer is: it is for everyone who will receive it.
Look at :1. It says “Praise the LORD, all nations; laud Him, all peoples.”
Why? “FOR His CHESED is great toward us.” So God’s CHESED (or grace) is great towards ALL: “all nations; all peoples.” This scripture (among others) makes it clear that God’s grace is intended for everyone: every nation; all people. Now, as the scripture also makes clear in other places, not everyone will RECEIVE His grace. Jesus said in Luke 7:30 that the Pharisees “rejected God’s purpose for themselves.” You can reject His grace if you choose to. But His grace IS intended for you. It is intended for all. “ALL nations; ALL peoples.”
Revelation 7:9 says that standing before the Lord in heaven will be a multitude “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.”
This scripture is very appropriate for these contemporary days. It reminds us of the universal nature of God’s grace. It is for every nation; it is for every tribe; it is for every tongue. Anyone who takes the word of God seriously knows there is no room for racial prejudice in the church of the One True God. His grace is for all: “ALL nations; ALL peoples” without exception. And we need to accept all those to whom God has shown His grace, as equal brothers and sisters in His grace, without exception.
But His prevailing grace is not only for all races and peoples, but for all of us as individuals too. Whoever you are, this grace is for YOU! Your name is on the present! It’s for YOU, if you will open it and receive it! The Bible says “WHOEVER will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.” His grace is for whoever will receive it, without exception. Whoever you are, if you will receive the grace of God, you can know the forgiveness of your sins, and peace with God, and know you have a home with Him forever.
John Bunyan lived in England in the mid-1600’s, and as a young man, he felt a great burden of conviction because the sins of his life. He wrestled with how he would ever be made right with God — until, one day, he wrote in his autobiography, Grace Abounding To The Chief Of Sinners:
“One day as I was passing into the field…this sentence fell upon my soul. ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven.’ And…I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I saw, was my righteousness; … I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, “The same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Now did my chains fall off … I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; … now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.”
John Bunyan realized that day that Jesus Christ died for HIM; that HE was his righteousness, who would make him right with God. And he says when he realized that, he “went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.”
THAT is what I want for everyone in the sound of my voice today — whether you are present “Live” or listening on “Live Stream” — I want you to be able to go home today, “rejoicing in the grace of God”, because His grace prevails in YOU!
And the thing is, it CAN happen for you. His grace is for “all nations;” for “all peoples.” The Bible says: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” His grace will prevail for YOU — if you will call on Him today.
— You may need to receive the grace of God for the very first time right now. You know you have sinned against God … but His grace will prevail towards you. If you will admit your sin and ask Him to save YOU, He will!
— Maybe you are already a Christian today, but some “great sin” of your past is haunting you. The devil is trying to use it to discourage you …
Claim the grace of God today: Say to that temptation: “HIS GRACE PREVAILS!”
— Or maybe it is not YOU; maybe there is someone you know that YOU are holding some past sin against them. God’s word to you today may be that you need to understand that His grace has prevailed towards that person. Stop holding against them something that God has already forgiven. His grace has prevailed towards you, now pass that grace on to the person God is speaking to your heart about!