I Will Keep You

by Scarlett Stough

 

Editor’s Note: The portion of his name that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:7 is: “Keeping mercy for thousands” (KJV) or as the NIV translates it: “Maintaining love to thousands.” The word translated from the Hebrew for “mercy” or “love” is hesed or chesed, (depending on the reference work), was covered in the August, 2010, issue of Women in Christ. This month of November, 2010, the issue will focus on God’s “keeping” or “maintaining.”

Most of the time in the Old Testament this Hebrew word natsar refers to people “keeping” something such as, God’s law in the sense of obedience (Psalm 119). Here in Exodus 34:7, God is the one who is “keeping” or “maintaining” his mercy, his love. Natsar means “to watch, to guard, to keep.”*

Within the Ten Commandments, God said: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).

In his name, God is telling us that his mercy, his love, is consistent in all his dealings with those who love him and obey his commandments. We run into the problem that we are not consistent in our relationship with God. Not one human being with the exception of the Son of God ever lived a sin- free life in obedience to all of God’s commandments. But there is a solution:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished---he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).

In other words, God had promised punishment for the crimes of mankind. The penalty was death: “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23).

Jesus took our punishment upon himself, giving his body up to death to satisfy justice. Our human minds think this is foolishness. Which one of us would be willing to serve the sentence given to a hardened criminal?

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him (Romans 5:6-9)!

The One who loved and kept God’s commandments perfectly was Jesus, God’s Son. God promised to keep his “servant.”

“Here is my servant,” whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations…I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 41:1, 6-7).

Jesus applied this prophecy to himself (Luke 4:14-21; Matthew 11:4-6). The gospel or the good news is that through Jesus we are given the gift of life (Romans 6:23). But this does not mean we can go back to our life of crime against God and man. God’s goal is making us a new man (or woman) in the likeness of his Son Jesus. God “keeps” or “maintains” his love through our relationship with God through Jesus. Jesus told his disciples and those of us of future generations:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love (John 15:9-10)

In his prayer before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed that the Father would “protect” all those who were given to him by the Father out of this world (John 17:6-15.) The Greek word tereo translated “protect” in these verses “is used of the keeping power of God the Father and Christ exercised over his people.”**

Paul prayed for the Thessalonians:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it (I Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Even though God’s promise “I will keep you” in Isaiah applied to his Son, it also applies to those who are justified and made righteous in Jesus the Son of God and our Lord and Savior.

 

*The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Number 5341: it has the sense of “keeping with faithfulness.”

**The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Number 5083.

Bible Study Guide: Keeping Mercy for Thousands

 
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