Word Study: Hear Lovingkindness




Psalms 143:8: “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning…”

Here is the question that come to my mind as I read this, how does one hear lovingkindness? True this is poetry and David is most likely speaking metaphorically, but still the question remains, what does he mean by hearing lovingkindness.

The word hear is shama which could mean to hear, to listen or to obey. It could also refer to a spiritual hearing. What is interesting is this is in a rare grammatical form. It is both third person singular and first person singular at the same time. Literally it is rendered as “you me listen.”

What is hearing? Hearing is the act of receiving sound vibrations into the brain and the brain translating these vibrations into something meaningful. Hence, in a spiritual sense you are receiving data into your spirit which is translated into something that is meaningful. This word is also used in a Hiphil form so the Psalmist is saying that “You have caused me to hear of your lovingkindness.”

So now we approach another question, why was it so difficult for the Psalmist to hear or understand God’s lovingkindness? Maybe it was not a problem of understanding. The word lovingkindness is chasad. Certain words seem to hold a particular importance in God’s vocabulary. This is one of them. It is a special word, an expression of love.

Within our culture we have what is called love talk. When you think about it, these words make no sense at all. “Hey baby,” “Honey child.” “Sweetness and light,” “Hi Puddin.” No sense at all except to the one it is spoken to. But for the risk of life and limb a man would not dear say such things to a strange woman.

There is the story in the Talmud about a rabbi reading a father’s will to the sole heir of his estate. The will said that the son was to receive the estate when he began to talk and act like a fool. The rabbi could not understand what this meant so he went to his master teacher to ask him. The rabbi happened to walk in on his teacher just as he was playing with his grandchild. This distinguished, very proper and formal rabbi, master teacher, was on all fours, with his grandchild on his back, holding onto a rope wrapped around the rabbi’s mouth like a horse’s reins and the rabbi was running around the room on all fours saying “Hee haw, Hee haw.” The master teacher suddenly looked up at his student and asked: “You have a question?” The rabbi replied: “No, you just answered it.” The father had requested in his will that his son not receive the estate until he was married and had a child or learned about love. Love makes you say and do some pretty foolish things.

There are many words or actions that have little or no meaning unless offered in the proper context. This presents a real challenge to translators of the Old Testament. For instance, in the Song of Solomon, Solomon wants to express his deep passion and admiration for the beauty of his beloved so he says: “You are a horse.” King or no king, if I were her, I’d hit him. But that is what the text says, right? He calls her a horse. Ken Taylor in his paraphrase translates it as “My little filly.” He is still calling her a horse, but somehow the word filly sounds a little more romantic and sweet.

There are certain words that a husband will use to touch his wife’s heart. They may sound foolish to the outside world but when a husband and wife wake up in the morning, together, and the husband reaches for his wife, takes her in his arms and tenderly brushes her hair aside and says: “Good morning Sugar Babe,” those words which seem absolutely ridiculous to the outside world, becomes something very precious to that wife. For they are words spoken by her beloved for her ears and her ears only and she knows that she is the first thing on her husband’s mind when he awakes in the morning.

Is it any wonder that the Psalmist would say: “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning.” What Psalmist is asking is that when he awakes in the morning he wants to awaken in the arms of his beloved God and to listen to Him whisper in his ear: “Good morning my Chasad. He wants to hear his beloved God whisper words of love into his spiritual ear, to know that he is the first thing on his God’s mind when he awakens in the morning. Such is the reason for that rare form of the word shama in both first and third person. The word chasad is special and private just between you and God. Many a man will call his wife “Honey.” But there is only one woman that will hear that word from that one man. So too, God may call us all chasad, but it is meant as a private word of endearment just between you and God.