The World is Built with Grace

At our Prayer for Israel meeting today, Ps 89:2 came up and I was reading the NKJV version. While it reads ok, it gives little hint of the depth of meaning the Rabbi’s attach to this verse.

Here’s how the NKJV renders it:
“For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever;
Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.”

Note that there is no mention of man here, and the use of the word ‘mercy’ hides to some degree the reality that this verse actually speaks of ‘grace’.

I spend quite a bit of time focusing on this verse in my ‘Amazing Grace’ article here –

Here is a better version (with Verse 1):
“I will sing of the grace of YHVH, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.

For I said, the world is built with grace; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”

Noting the Hebraic poetic approach to often repeat a phrase in the same or almost identical manner to emphasis it and you might note that the first declaration establishes a reverence from the author (King David) for the ‘grace’ of God and for “man’s” promotion of it.

Similarly there is a possible repeat in the phrases in verse 2.

The phrase ‘the world is built with grace’ is repeated in a slightly different way with ‘in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness’.

That is, the creation is both a demonstration of, and results from, the ‘grace’ of God, but the creation (the heavens) are also a means through which God declares his on-going ‘grace’ and reliability or trustworthiness (faithfulness).

The Jewish understanding of ‘chesed’ (the word used here and translated as ‘mercy’ in the NKJV) is that of the concept of ‘kindness’ or love that is overflowing and having few boundaries.

Or to state it another way, ‘grace’ means ‘overflowing and boundless kindness’.

The view then that the creation itself is an example of the overflowing and boundless ‘love’ or kindness of God certainly fits with this interpretation of Ps 89:1-3.

I think though that there are two possible ways though that this phrase, ‘‘the world is built with grace’ can be understood.

As already intimated, it can be seen as a declaration of the Almighty’s great act of grace in creating this Universe and in sustaining it moment by moment, but it can also be seen as embodied the true purpose of man and that is through grace to built the world he lives in daily.

To repeat: “… the true purpose of man is, through grace, to built the world he lives in …”

In the Talmud, there is a very famous statement that:

The world rests upon three things: Upon Torah study, upon Divine service (i.e., prayer and sacrifices), and upon the practice of chesed (grace).’
– Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 1:2

It appears that the third of these pillars is derived from this understanding of Ps 89:2, so that we can say

“And upon the practice of chesed (grace)” – as it is written, “The world will be built through kindness (grace)”.

That is, it is man’s practice of grace in his dealings with his fellow man that truly creates and sustains the world.

It is man’s practice of grace that most perfectly embodies his being made in the ‘image of God’.


About PF Herring

Husband, father of 5, grandfather of 7, Teacher & Theologian
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