Benefiting From Jehovah’s Loving-Kindness
“Who is wise? He will . . . show himself attentive toward Jehovah’s acts of loving-kindness.”—PSALM 107:43.
1. When was the expression “loving-kindness” first used in the Bible, and what questions regarding this quality will we consider?
SOME 4,000 years ago, Abraham’s nephew Lot said of Jehovah: “You are magnifying your loving-kindness.” (Genesis 19:19) This is the first time the expression “loving-kindness” appears in the Bible. Jacob, Naomi, David, and other servants of God also spoke about this quality of Jehovah. (Genesis 32:10; Ruth 1:8; 2 Samuel 2:6) In fact, the terms “loving-kindness” and “loving-kindnesses” occur some 250 times in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. But what is Jehovah’s loving-kindness? To whom was it shown in the past? And how do we benefit from it today?
2. Why is the Hebrew word translated “loving-kindness” so hard to define, and what is an appropriate alternate rendering of it?
2 In the Scriptures, “loving-kindness” is a translation of a Hebrew term so rich in meaning that most languages have no single word exactly expressing its full sense. Thus, such renderings as “love,” “mercy,” and “faithfulness” do not capture its complete breadth of meaning. However, the more comprehensive rendering “loving-kindness” is “not far from the fulness of meaning of the word,” notes the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References appropriately gives “loyal love” as an alternate rendering of the Hebrew term translated “loving-kindness.”—Exodus 15:13; Psalm 5:7; footnote.
Different From Love and Loyalty
3. How does loving-kindness differ from love?
3 Loving-kindness, or loyal love, is closely related to the qualities of love and loyalty. Yet, it differs from them in important ways. Consider how loving-kindness and love differ. Love can be extended to things and concepts. The Bible speaks of “loving wine and oil” and “loving wisdom.” (Proverbs 21:17; 29:3) But loving-kindness has to do with people, not concepts or inanimate things. For instance, people are involved when Exodus 20:6 says that Jehovah is “exercising loving-kindness toward the thousandth generation.”
4. How does loving-kindness differ from loyalty?
4 The Hebrew word rendered “loving-kindness” is also more encompassing than the word “loyalty.” In some languages, “loyalty” is often used for the attitude a subordinate should show toward a superior. But as one researcher notes, from a Biblical standpoint, loving-kindness “refers more often to just the opposite direction of relationship: the powerful is loyal to the weak or needy or dependent.” King David could therefore petition Jehovah: “Do cause your face to shine upon your servant. Save me in your loving-kindness.” (Psalm 31:16) Jehovah, the powerful one, is asked to show loving-kindness, or loyal love, to the needy one, David. Since the needy have no authority over the powerful, the loving-kindness shown in such a case is displayed willingly, not under compulsion.
5. (a) What characteristics of God’s loving-kindness stand out in his Word? (b) What expressions of Jehovah’s loving-kindness will we consider?
5 “Who is wise?” asked the psalmist. “He will . . . show himself attentive toward Jehovah’s acts of loving-kindness.” (Psalm 107:43) Jehovah’s loving-kindness can result in deliverance and preservation. (Psalm 6:4; 119:88, 159) It is a protection and a factor bringing relief from troubles. (Psalm 31:16, 21; 40:11; 143:12) Because of this quality, recovery from sin is possible. (Psalm 25:7) By reviewing certain Scriptural narratives and noting other Bible texts, we will see that Jehovah’s loving-kindness is (1) expressed by specific actions and (2) experienced by his faithful servants.
Deliverance—An Expression of Loving-Kindness
6, 7. (a) How did Jehovah magnify his loving-kindness in Lot’s case? (b) When did Lot make mention of Jehovah’s loving-kindness?
6 Perhaps the best way to determine the scope of Jehovah’s loving-kindness is to examine Scriptural accounts involving this quality. At Genesis 14:1-16, we find that Lot, the nephew of Abraham, was carried off by enemy forces. But Abraham rescued Lot. Lot’s life was again in danger when Jehovah decided to destroy the wicked city of Sodom, where Lot and his family were living.—Genesis 18:20-22; 19:12, 13.
7 Just before the destruction of Sodom, Jehovah’s angels escorted Lot and his family out of the city. At that time, Lot said: “Your servant has found favor in your eyes so that you are magnifying your loving-kindness, which you have exercised with me to preserve my soul alive.” (Genesis 19:16, 19) With these words Lot acknowledged that Jehovah had shown exceptional loving-kindness by rescuing him. In this case, God’s loving-kindness was expressed through deliverance and preservation.—2 Peter 2:7.
Jehovah’s Loving-Kindness and His Guidance
8, 9. (a) What was the commission of Abraham’s servant? (b) Why did the servant pray for God’s loving-kindness, and what happened while he was praying?
8 In Genesis chapter 24, we read about another expression of divine loving-kindness, or loyal love. The account relates that Abraham commissioned his servant to travel to the country of Abraham’s relatives to find a wife for his son Isaac. (Ge 24 Verses 2-4) The mission was difficult, but the servant was assured that Jehovah’s angel would guide him. (Ge 24 Verse 7) Eventually the servant reached a well outside “the city of Nahor” (either Haran or a nearby place) just when the women were approaching to draw water. (Ge 24 Verses 10, 11) When he saw the women coming closer, he knew that the crucial moment of his mission had arrived. But how could he ever single out the right woman?
9 Aware that he needed divine help, Abraham’s servant prayed: “Jehovah the God of my master Abraham, cause it to happen, please, before me this day and perform loving-kindness with my master Abraham.” (Ge 24 Verse 12) How would Jehovah express his loving-kindness? The servant asked for a specific sign by which he could identify the young woman of God’s choosing. (Ge 24 Verses 13, 14) One woman did exactly what he had asked of Jehovah. Why, it was as if she had overheard his prayer! (Ge 24 Verses 15-20) Astounded, the servant “was gazing at her in wonder.” Still, some vital facts needed to be determined. Was this good-looking woman one of Abraham’s relatives? And was she still unmarried? So the servant remained “silent to know whether Jehovah had made his trip successful or not.”—Ge 24 Verses 16, 21.
10. Why did Abraham’s servant conclude that Jehovah had expressed loving-kindness to his master?
10 Shortly thereafter, the young woman identified herself as “the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to [Abraham’s brother] Nahor.” (Genesis 11:26; 24:24) At that moment the servant realized that Jehovah had answered his prayer. Overwhelmed, he bowed down and said: “Blessed be Jehovah the God of my master Abraham, who has not left his loving-kindness and his trustworthiness toward my master. I being on the way, Jehovah has led me to the house of the brothers of my master.” (Ge 24 Verse 27) By providing guidance, God showed loving-kindness to the servant’s master, Abraham.
God’s Loving-Kindness Brings Relief and Protection
11, 12. (a) During what trials did Joseph experience Jehovah’s loving-kindness? (b) How was God’s loving-kindness expressed in Joseph’s case?
11 Next, let us consider Genesis chapter 39. It centers on Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt. Nevertheless, “Jehovah proved to be with Joseph.” (Ge 39 Verses 1, 2) In fact, even Joseph’s Egyptian master, Potiphar, concluded that Jehovah was with Joseph. (Ge 39 Verse 3) However, Joseph faced a very serious test. He was falsely accused of sexually assaulting Potiphar’s wife and was imprisoned. (Ge 39 Verses 7-20) It was “in the prison hole” that “with fetters they afflicted his feet, into irons his soul came.”—Genesis 40:15; Psalm 105:18.
12 What happened during that particularly trying experience? “Jehovah continued with Joseph and kept extending loving-kindness to him.” (Ge 39 Verse 21a) A particular act of loving-kindness set in motion a series of events that later led to relief from the troubles Joseph was experiencing. Jehovah granted Joseph “to find favor in the eyes of the chief officer of the prison house.” (Ge 39 Verse 21b) Consequently, the officer assigned Joseph a responsible position. (Ge 39 Verse 22) Next, Joseph met the man who eventually brought him to the attention of Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. (Genesis 40:1-4, 9-15; 41:9-14) In turn, the king elevated Joseph to the position of second ruler in Egypt, resulting in his performing a life-saving work in the famine-stricken land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:37-55) Joseph’s suffering began when he was 17 years old and lasted for more than a dozen years! (Genesis 37:2, 4; 41:46) But throughout all those years of distress and affliction, Jehovah God manifested his loving-kindness toward Joseph by protecting him from utter calamity and by preserving him for a privileged role in the divine purpose.
God’s Loving-Kindness Never Fails
13. (a) What expressions of Jehovah’s loving-kindness are found in Psalm 136? (b) What is the nature of loving-kindness?
13 Jehovah repeatedly expressed his loving-kindness toward the Israelites as a people. Psalm 136 relates that in his loving-kindness, he granted them deliverance (Ps 136 Verses 10-15), guidance (Ps 136 Verse 16), and protection. (Ps 136 Verses 17-20) God has also displayed his loving-kindness toward individuals. A person who shows loving-kindness to fellow humans does so by voluntary deeds intended to fill a crucial need. Concerning loving-kindness, one Bible reference work states: “It is an act that preserves or promotes life. It is intervention on behalf of someone suffering misfortune or distress.” One scholar describes it as “love translated into action.”
14, 15. Why can we be certain that Lot was an approved servant of God?
14 The Genesis accounts that we have examined show us that Jehovah never fails to display loving-kindness to those who love him. Lot, Abraham, and Joseph lived under different circumstances and faced distinct trials. They were imperfect humans, but they were approved servants of Jehovah, and they were in need of divine help. We can take comfort in the fact that our loving heavenly Father displays loving-kindness toward such individuals.
15 Lot made some unwise decisions that led to hardships. (Genesis 13:12, 13; 14:11, 12) Yet, he also displayed commendable qualities. When two of God’s angels arrived in Sodom, Lot showed them hospitality. (Genesis 19:1-3) In faith he warned his sons-in-law about the imminent destruction of Sodom. (Genesis 19:14) God’s view of Lot is found at 2 Peter 2:7-9, where we read: “[Jehovah] delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct—for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds—Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.” Yes, Lot was a righteous man, and the wording here implies that he was a person of godly devotion. Like him, we enjoy God’s loving-kindness as we engage in “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion.”—2 Peter 3:11, 12.
16. In what favorable terms does the Bible speak about Abraham and Joseph?
16 The account in Genesis chapter 24 leaves no doubt about Abraham’s bond with Jehovah. The first verse Ge 24:1 states that “Jehovah had blessed Abraham in everything.” Abraham’s servant called Jehovah “the God of my master Abraham.” (Ge 24 Verses 12, 27) And the disciple James says that Abraham was “declared righteous” and “came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” (James 2:21-23) Much the same is true of Joseph. The close relationship between Jehovah and Joseph is emphasized throughout Genesis chapter 39. (Ge 39 Verses 2, 3, 21, 23) Moreover, regarding Joseph, the disciple Stephen said: “God was with him.”—Acts 7:9.
17. What can we learn from the examples of Lot, Abraham, and Joseph?
17 The recipients of divine loving-kindness whom we have just considered were individuals who had a good relationship with Jehovah God and served the divine purpose in certain ways. They faced obstacles that they could not have overcome by themselves. At stake were the preservation of Lot’s life, the continuation of Abraham’s family line, and the securing of Joseph’s role. Only Jehovah could fill the needs of these godly men, and he did just that by intervening with acts of loving-kindness. If we are to experience Jehovah God’s loving-kindness forever, we too must have a close personal relationship with him, and we must continue to do his will.—Ezra 7:28; Psalm 18:50.
God’s Servants Are Favored
18. What do various Bible texts indicate about Jehovah’s loving-kindness?
18 Jehovah’s loving-kindness “has filled the earth,” and how we appreciate this quality of God! (Psalm 119:64) We wholeheartedly respond to the psalmist’s refrain: “O let people give thanks to Jehovah for his loving-kindness and for his wonderful works to the sons of men.” (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31) We rejoice that Jehovah extends his loving-kindness to his approved servants—either as individuals or as a group. In prayer, the prophet Daniel addressed Jehovah as “the true God, the great One and the fear-inspiring One, keeping the covenant and the loving-kindness to those loving him and to those keeping his commandments.” (Daniel 9:4) King David prayed: “Continue your loving-kindness to those knowing you.” (Psalm 36:10) How grateful we are that Jehovah expresses loving-kindness toward his servants!—1 Kings 8:23; 1 Chronicles 17:13.
19. In the following article, we will consider what questions?
19 Truly, we are favored as Jehovah’s people! In addition to benefiting from God’s love shown to mankind in general, we enjoy distinctive blessings resulting from our heavenly Father’s loving-kindness, or loyal love. (John 3:16) Especially in time of need do we benefit from this precious quality of Jehovah. (Psalm 36:7) But how can we imitate the loving-kindness of Jehovah God? Are we individually displaying this remarkable quality? These and related questions will be considered in the next article.
Do You Recall?
• What is an alternate Scriptural rendering of “loving-kindness”?
• How does loving-kindness differ from love and loyalty?
• In what ways did Jehovah show loving-kindness to Lot, Abraham, and Joseph?
• What assurance can we derive from Jehovah’s past expressions of loving-kindness?
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Do you know how God showed loving-kindness to Lot?
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In his loving-kindness, Jehovah guided Abraham’s servant
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Jehovah expressed loving-kindness by protecting Joseph