There is an interesting train of thought linking the promise made to David with the Psalm he wrote as a consequence, and the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” (55:3). These last words are picked up in turn and quoted as proof of the resurrection of Messiah by the apostle Paul in the synagogue in Antioch, “and as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:34). It is also notable that Paul adds Psalm 16:10 as a second proof that Messiah had to be a resurrected man, “Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 13:35).

We shall commence our enquiry by  ascertaining what is meant by the words “the sure mercies if David”. Two words used many times to describe the character of the God of Heaven are put in juxtaposition by the prophet and associated with David. The two words are “amen” (translated “sure”) and “chesed” (translated “mercies”). They are found together in Exodus 34:6 where Yahweh declares He is “abundant in goodness (chesed) and truth (emeth)”.

A brief analysis of these words will be helpful in order to see the breadth and importance of them. Further information is to be had from a series of articles in The Christadelphian under the title “The Knowledge of God” by Brother F T Pearce, Volume 104 page 253ff.

“Chesed”

 Applied to the relationship of individuals it means “loyalty, faithfulness”, especially to a covenant entered into (see 2Sam 9:7; 10:2; 16:17; Gen 32:10; Exod 15:13 “mercy”). Many times it is associated with the word “covenant” as in Deuteronomy 7:9keepeth covenant and mercy”. See also Isaiah 54:10.

Associated with the idea of loyalty and faithfulness are the ideas of love, pity and kindness. Picking this up the RSV translators put both ideas together and translate “chesed” as “steadfast love”, as in Isaiah 55:3, “My steadfast sure love for David”.

It is linked with another noun forty three times and in no fewer than twenty three times it is with “emeth”, translated “truth” in the AV; and seven times with “covenant” (refer Psalm 89:33–34).

“Emeth”

 This word comes from the verb “aman” meaning “to build up, support” and hence “assurance, trust, steadfastness” (cp Isa 22:23, “a sure place”; 1Sam 2:35, “a faithful priest”; 2Kings 22:7 “dealt faithfully”). Hence it signifies “truth, certainty, trustworthiness”.

God is steadfast, utterly trustworthy and will not be moved (Psa 36:5 “thy faithfulness unto the clouds”; Isa 65:16 “God of truth”; see also 1Cor 1:9; Rev 3:14).

While this word is not the same as “chesed” which signifies “steadfast covenant love”, when used of God it does mean that He is not arbitrary and does not alter His standards in His dealings with men. He remains utterly self-consistent and so can be relied on completely.

Thus “chesed” and “emeth” have the common factor of “steadfastness” and so it is not surprising to find that they are frequently parallel terms (eg Psa 25:10; 40:10; 89:1).

“Chesed” and God’s Covenant with David

 It is significant that in the midst of God’s promise to His servant David the word “chesed” occurs: “If he (the seed of David) commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men…. But my mercy (chesed) shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee” (2Sam 7:14–15). Here there is every assurance by God that David’s dynasty would continue despite the possible iniquity of some of his regal descendants, who would be punished accordingly. This is in contrast to Saul’s dynasty which terminated with his death, God’s mercy being withdrawn.

The word God uses to give this assurance is “chesed”—His steadfast love would act as the guarantee that His words of promise to David would not fail. It is highly significant that in Psalm 89 where the promise to David is expounded, both words, “chesed” and “emeth”, each occur seven times! In verses 33, 34 for example God affirms: “Nevertheless my lovingkindness (chesed) will I not utterly take from him (David’s seed) nor suffer my faithfulness (emeth) to fail. My covenant will I not break nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips”.

Resurrection and the Davidic Covenant

 The words of promise given to David involve eternity and eternal life. They are implicit in it so far as David himself is concerned and also his seed. How could his “house and kingdom” be established forever before him, or in his presence, unless he was resurrected from the dead (2Sam 7:16)? This David worked out and his words in Psalm 71 reveal his hope: “Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shall quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth” (v20).

Also his seed, a flesh and blood descendant of his (2Sam 7:12), would have the throne of his kingdom established forever (v13). This is a conundrum and the only solution is resurrection. David thought about this and came to the conclusion that, as in his own case, so also with the seed of promise, resurrection to eternal life was crucial. This is not an assumption on the part of the writer, but is what the Spirit tells us in the mouth of Peter in Acts 2:29–31: “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh (ie he would be a mortal man), he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption”.

 The last words are taken from Psalm 16:10. Peter had just quoted from Psalm 16 extensively. He affirms that David taught that the Messiah, his promised seed, would have to be a resurrected man, his soul (body) would not see corruption. These words were not written by David about himself, for he had died and the presence of his sepulchre and remains in Jerusalem testified that he “saw corruption”.

“Thy Holy One”

 In Psalm 16:10 Messiah is designated the “Holy One”. In the New Testament this is a translation of the Greek word “osia” which follows the Septuagint version. But in the Hebrew the word is “chasid” a cognate of “chesed” and refers to one who is the recipient of “chesed”, or steadfast love. Hence Rotherham’s translation reads, “Neither wilt thou suffer thy man of lovingkindness to see corruption”.

Thus again we have this word “chesed” or its cognate “chasid” associated with resurrection!

Is it not therefore highly significant that the reward promised those who respond to the Messiah’s cry is: “your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure (emeth) mercies (chesed) of David” (RSV “My steadfast sure love for David”).

How could an “everlasting covenant” be made and not involve the gift of eternal life. So again the ideas of resurrection and eternal life are associated with David and Messiah in conjunction with the word “chesed”.

We can now see why the apostle Paul quoted the words of Isaiah 55:3 in Acts 13:35 to prove the resurrection of Messiah; and also why he reinforces his argument by also citing from Psalm 16:10, written by David, about the resurrection of the one from whom the mercy of God would “not depart” (2Sam 7:15). There is a consistent and beautiful harmony in these quotations.

An Interesting Question

 In Isaiah 55:3 the “sure mercies of David” are promised to all who heed the call to salvation, but in Acts 13:34 they are specifically applied to the resurrection of Messiah. On the surface there appears to be a contradiction. A little thought is sufficient, however, to reconcile the apparent anomaly. Messiah, David’s son and God’s, is the one from whom God’s mercy (“chesed”) would not depart (2Sam 7:15). He would experience resurrection as God’s Holy One (“chasid”). God has given him the power and authority to raise and judge the dead and grant eternal life to whomsoever he will (John 5:26–29). So he can offer the “sure mercies” of David to others, having himself been the recipient of them in the first place.

  Summary

 The following diagram shows how the main Scriptures referred to in this article relate to each other:

Conclusion The remarkable word “chesed”, twice used in Exodus 34:6–8 (translated “goodness” v6, and “mercy” v7) to describe the steadfast love and mercy of Yahweh, is used of David’s seed. The ultimate expression of this “chesed” is seen in Messiah’s resurrection, and in this lies the guarantee that others who respond to the Divine invitation of Isaiah 55 will also have an everlasting covenant made with them, even “the sure mercies of David”.

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