Saturday, March 1, 2014

A 52 Word Journey for Bible Study in 2014:Words 7 and 8: Kindness and Faithfulness

In January, I began a series of blog posts summarizing what I'm calling my 52 word journey of Bible study. I'm taking one word from Scripture a week and studying it as part of my personal Bible study. As a means of helping to organize my jumbled notes (and often equally jumbled mind!), I'm sharing my journey of study on my blog. Over the last two weeks, I've studied the words kindness and faithfulness.


The word "kindness" is used dozens of times throughout the the Bible. In my study,  I found that there are three general contexts in which the word is used--God's kindness, others' kindness, and God's call to us to be kind. Many of the "big names" in the Old Testament expressed thankfulness for the kindness of God or others or they prayed for kindness to be shown to them:
  • Genesis 24- Abraham's servant prayed for God's kindness in finding a wife for Isaac, and God was kind in providing that this servant 
  • Genesis 32- Jacob prayed for God's kindness in re-uniting with his brother Esau
  • Genesis 39- Joseph was shown God's kindness
  • Joshua 2- Rahab, a prostitute, is noted for showing kindness to the Israelite spies
  • Ruth-Naomi and Boaz recognized both Ruth's and God's kindness
In the New Testament, I found it somewhat surprising is that the word "kindness" is not found in the Gospels, and that includes searching through three versions--the NIV, KJV, and ESV. The reason for this may be that the Greek word that is often translated "kindness" is "philadelphia" --brotherly love or kindness. In some instances, perhaps those who translated the Bible into English may have chosen to translate philadelphia into "love". This, however, does not mean that Jesus did not call people to be kind or that God's kindness is not recognized. In Paul's writings he frequently notes the kindness of God and our need to clothe ourselves with kindness (Galatians 5:22) or to produce the Spirit's fruit of kindness (Colossians 3:4).

The most challenging message of Paul in regards to God's kindness, at least to my heart, is that found in Romans 2 when Paul challenges those in the Roman church regarding their judgment of others for doing the same things that they themselves do. Paul writes in verses 3 and 4, "So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things , do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? "Contempt for God's kindness--that is a very strong phrase, but Paul notes that is what we do when we aren't introspective of our own hearts in relation to our judgment of the hearts of others.


The use of  "faithfulness/faithful" in Scripture center around either on God's faithfulness or His call for us to be faithful. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word "aman" which means believe, assurance, or faithful is often translated as faithful. In the New Testament, the Greek word "pistos" which means faithful or believe is often translated "faithful". If one is faithful, it means you can believe what they say they are going to do--it's spiritual integrity.

Throughout the Old Testament, the writers note God's faithfulness in the context of His other, numerous virtues. In Deuteronomy 7:9, Moses writes how God is faithful in keeping His covenant of love. In the Psalms, David notes how God's works are faithful (Psalm 114:7 and Psalm 146:6). In Jeremiah 3:12, Jeremiah praises God's faithfulness in spite of Israel's lack of faithfulness. In Lamentations 3:22, Jeremiah again writes of the greatness of God's faithfulness--as faithful as the morning--and that His compassion never fail.

I found a common phrase in the book of Psalm--"faithful servants". David writes frequently of God's promises to His faithful servants. In Psalm 85:8, God promises peace to His faithful servants. In Psalm 148:14, His "faithful servants" are praised and deemed people close to God's heart. In Psalm 4:3, David writes that "faithful servants" are set apart for God. Faithfulness to God is important, but our understanding of our relation to God is equally important. We need to see ourselves as His servants.

There are also many times in the New Testament where the word "faithful" or "faithfulness" is used, but I'm only going to discuss one. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul writes, " No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted , He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it". It seems that this verse often gets interpreted in the context of trials, not temptations. People often say in reference to this verse that God won't give you more than you can handle. While I understand this verse to express God's faithfulness to us in giving us what we need,  it is about God's faithfulness to us when we face temptation, not trials. To be sure, we may face certain temptations when we face trials, but this verse is talking specifically about the temptation to sin, not facing trials. Perhaps, this is merely a semantic discussion, but I think it is important to see God's faithfulness in our spiritual battles with sin, not solely in our earthly (and spiritual) battles with trials. He is going to be faithful to us. In that vein, I feel the need to share this song, one of my favorites in my high school days:


  Previous posts:

 Introduction to the 52 Word Journey

Words 1 and 2: Confidence and Peace

 Words 3 and 4: Perseverance and Works

 Words 5 and 6: Humility and Compassion

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