GRACE/FAVOUR: khen. Noun masculine. (Strong’s 2580).
Sounds like: khayn
Grace and favoured feel like very different words in English, but the Hebrew word khen captures both meanings. Grace is a gift, and to be favoured means we are gifted.
We named our oldest child Grace Anwen… and she is an incredible gift in our lives, a real joy-bringer. She loves to sing, exercise, socialize, and organize closets. In fact, she is the most organized person in our household, and (I’m embarrassed to say) it sometimes feels like she is the most responsible as well. Grace is a super fun scheduler and she keeps things running smoothly in our home. This summer she is working at Camp Keir, teaching kids how awesome YHWH is… and, no doubt, making sure everything is running kindly and joyously on schedule. She is a gift that I cannot imagine living without.
And that’s what the grace of God is… it is a gift. It’s not something we have to earn, or something we have to study for, or something we have to work towards… it is a gift, freely given by God, with no demands attached.
Favoured by YHWH (in the Sight of the Egyptians)
The Hebrew word khen was consistently used to describe those who were special to God… they were favoured (khen), which was a gift in itself. When God favours you, you are gifted.
The Hebrew people were favoured by God. And although they suffered great hardship as slaves under the heavy hand of the Egyptians, His grace to the Jewish people would eventually be made evident in the eyes of the Egyptian people:
YHWH: “But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go. I will grant this people favour [et khen] in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed.
And so God sent the 10 Plagues of Egypt and the final one would particularly show the favour that YHWH gave to His people:
Exodus 11:4-6 (see also Exodus 12:35-36)
YHWH gave the people favour [et khen] in the sight of the Egyptians… Moses said, “Thus says YHWH, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well. Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again.’”
YHWH gave the Hebrew people instructions on how to protect the firstborns in their households. By following God’s directions, death would pass over them and they would live. Every Egyptian person lost someone they loved, and yet they saw how the God of these Hebrew people favoured them and saved them, and only them. God’s gracious gift of life at the event now known as The Passover was an incredible, eye opening, witness to the Egyptian people.
Grace is a Gift
According to the Hebrew concept, grace was like a free gift which was never to be hidden away. Grace was something that was meant to be worn on the outside… visible to everyone looking. The Proverbs often described favour and grace as something worn:
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful [khen] wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck.
The gifts of instruction that we received from our elders was a grace that was to be worn out loud. Kindness, truth, wisdom, and discretion were also gifts, meant to be displayed visibly:
Proverbs 4:7-9 (see also Proverbs 13:14-15
“The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding. Prize her, and she will exalt you; she will honour you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace [khen]; she will present you with a crown of beauty.”
Proverbs 3:3-4, 21-22
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; blind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favour [khen] and good repute in the sight of God and man.
…My son, let them not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and
adornment grace [w-khen] to your neck.
By wearing these kind of gifts on the outside, visible for all to see, the whole world would be exposed to more wisdom, kindness, discretion, and people who were advocating the truth… the truth that life was greater than death, and eternal life was available for everyone who chose to accept it.
Wearing our gifts out loud is a small action with tremendous impact. By the grace of God these gifts can change the world and make it intrinsically more beautiful and more in tune with the way God intended it to be. Solomon (identified as the writer of Proverbs 3) tells us that these things (wisdom, kindness, truth) are life to our souls. If we hide them away, we are doing no one a favour.
…Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways. For the devious are an abomination to YHWH; but He is intimate with the upright. The curse of YHWH is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the dwelling of the righteous. Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace [khen] to the afflicted.
Because there is a separation between human and God, everyone who has wandered on this planet has been afflicted. But to the afflicted ones who seek Him out, YHWH offers grace.… because it is only through grace that are we brought back to Him. YHWH has given all these beautiful gifts to us by way of the Spirit, but (spoilers!) there was one gift, more precious than all the rest, that saved us… and allowed us to come back home to the Father.
Favoured in Your Sight
Many individuals in the Tanakh were favoured by YHWH, such as Noah (Genesis 6:8), Abraham (Genesis 18:3-5), and David (2 Samuel 15:24-26, 30). Khen/Favour was often connected to the words in your sight.
Moses used his favour almost like a bargaining chip: If I have found favour in your sight, will you show me Your ways?
Exodus 33:12-23 (see also Exodus 34:8-10)
Then Moses said to YHWH, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favour in My sight [khen b-ehnai].’ Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favour in Your sight [khen b-ehnehka], let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favour in Your sight [khen b-ehnehka]. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.”
And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favour in Your sight [khen b-ehnehka], I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”
YHWH said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favour in My sight [khen b-ehnai] and I have known you by name.”
Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”
And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of YHWH before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then YHWH said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”
There’s a lot going on in this conversation between Moses and YHWH. Moses used his favour to bargain safe passage as they wandered towards the promised land, and YHWH promised to send His Presence with them.
When YHWH told Moses that he was favoured and that He knew Moses by name, Moses used the moment to request to see God’s Glory. That was a dangerous move… seeing YHWH, face to face, was a death sentence (“You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”). Humans, flawed with transgression, couldn’t handle the overwhelming glory of God. In Eden, Adam and Eve had no problem looking at the face of YHWH, but the moment they disobeyed God, their eyes were opened and they couldn’t face Him anymore.
Although he could not look at God’s face, Moses experienced the tremendous gift of seeing the glory of God and living to tell about it.
Seeing YHWH was a rare and incredible gift. Gideon also got a glimpse of YHWH:
The angel of YHWH appeared to him and said to him, “YHWH is with you, O valiant warrior.”
Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if YHWH is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not YHWH bring us up from Egypt?’ But now YHWH has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
In response the angel of YHWH promised Gideon that they would defeat the Midianites. But Gideon wanted more than a promise and he, like Moses, also used his favour as a bargaining chip: If I have found favour in your sight, show me a sign?
So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favour in Your sight [khen b-ehnehka], then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me. Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.”
And He said, “I will remain until you return.”
Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them.
The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so.
Then the angel of YHWH put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of YHWH vanished from his sight.
When Gideon saw that he was the angel of YHWH, he said, “Alas, O Lord YHWH! For now I have seen the angel of YHWH face to face.”
YHWH said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to YHWH and named it YHWH is Peace.
Seeing the face of God normally meant instant death. When Gideon recognized that he had seen the face of YHWH he was immediately concerned, but YHWH quelled his fear and announced that Gideon would not die. Although it was the Angel of YHWH that Gideon saw, (YHWH and the Angel of YHWH are often interchangeable in the Old Testament), this was no ordinary angel/messenger… this one carried the Presence of YHWH. When Gideon saw Him he expected death, but instead he LIVED… this was the true meaning of peace: a fulfilled and complete life with our Creator.
In this broken world we cannot face God, but there was a great Gift that God was preparing us for… and it would change the parameters of our relationship with YHWH.
The Psalmists prayed for God to look upon His anointed ones, and to bring us back home to the house of God:
Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For YHWH God is a sun and shield; YHWH gives grace and glory [khen w-kavohd]; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O YHWH of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!
Humanity would be able to see God’s glory through His Son, the Anointed Messiah. Yeshua (Jesus) was the Presence of YHWH on earth:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace [Greek: charitos] and truth.
John [the Baptizer] ]testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’”
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace [charin anti charitos]. For the Law was given through Moses; grace [charis] and truth were realized through Jesus the Messiah. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Yeshua walked among humans, saw them face to face. He was the walking gift of truth and grace upon grace… bringing the gift of Salvation.
Yeshua, the Son of God, was most favoured by His Father, and He came to this earth by way of a favoured woman. In fact there were four women specifically described as “favoured” (gifted) in the Bible:
Ruth, who was loyal to her mother-in-law in her darkest hour, was favoured by Boaz (Ruth 2:1-2, 8-13). YHWH rewarded her and made her the grandmother of king David and ancestor to His Messiah.
The barren Hannah prayed to YHWH for a child. In her need she sought the favour of Eli the priest and her faith was rewarded by YHWH. She became the mother of Samuel, prophet to king Saul and king David (1 Samuel 1:10-11, 15-20).
Esther found favour in the eyes of all who saw her (Esther 2:15) and, in particular, Ahasuerus, king of the Persian Empire. She used the favour that she had garnered from the king to save the Jewish people from extinction, which was planned by Haman, the king’s chief political advisor. (Esther 2:17, Esther 5:1-8, Esther 7:3-6, Esther 8:3-8).
Ruth was favoured by Boaz, Hannah was favoured by Eli the priest, and Esther was favoured by the king of Persia, and by these gifts the women were blessed and lifted up by God.
In the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) Gabriel announced to Mary that God favoured her:
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favoured one [Greek: kecharitomene]! The Lord is with you.”
But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favour [charin] with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
So the Son of God came to this earth as a baby, and Mary and Joseph brought Him to the temple for his circumcision and naming:
When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God [charis Theou] was upon Him.
Yeshua had the grace of God upon Him… literally He wore God’s grace for all to see. He was the living Gift of God, but that Gift was rejected by many people and He was pierced and crucified. As He suffered on the cross in daylight, suddenly darkness fell as death neared:
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last.
This was Amazing Grace… Yeshua, whose name literally meant “salvation”, willingly forfeited His life to save ours. When humanity fell in the Garden of Eden, and exiled themselves out of God’s presence, God immediately put a plan into action to bring us back home. Yeshua was His plan.
The death of Yeshua, the perfect sacrificial Lamb, would pay for our misdeeds. God suffered for our sake and He planned it that way… because it means so much more when we pour our lives into our gifts. The amazing Grace of God saved us… even a wretch like me.
The Spirit of Grace
Just after Yeshua breathed His last, those who had gathered to view the scene promptly fell into mourning:
Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.
It was like suddenly the peoples eyes were opened and they realized what they had just witnessed. In response, they beat their breasts in mourning. And while all this was going on, the close friends of Yeshua watched this amazing turn of events from a distance.
Five hundred years before Yeshua, the prophet Zechariah had prophesied that the Spirit of grace would be poured out upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that their eyes would see the Presence of YHWH in the Messiah. When they witnessed the death of YHWH’s Anointed One, they would mourn for Him:
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace [ruakh khen] and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem…”
The writer of the book of Hebrews pointed out that those who have rejected Yeshua (essentially trampling on the Gift they have been given) have also insulted the Spirit of grace, and their punishment would be terrible. By rejecting Yeshua they were choosing death:
Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace [Pneuma tes charitos]?
It was YHWH’s plan along to offer redemption by way of a sacrifice. And so Yeshua was sacrificed on the cross to bear the weight of humanity’s transgressions. He took the sins upon Himself and let them die with Him, and then He returned to give the Good News to the disciples that death had been conquered… and true life was available for everyone.
Yeshua commissioned His disciples to share the wonderful message that they could all come home, back to the Garden, to see YHWH face to face. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace [charis te megale] was upon them all (Acts 4:33).
Paul, more than anyone, understood how powerful the gift of abundant grace was. As a persecutor of the early Jewish Messianic believers, Paul knew He wasn’t worthy of God’s grace, but he was blessed with it nonetheless.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
Paul: For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I laboured even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
YHWH is a God of Life and the Adversary is a champion of Death… this was a repeated theme throughout the Bible, and it was a motif that Paul was very familiar with. In the Battle between Life and Death, grace played a key role in the story. We all face death, but only by the Grace of God, can we overcome it.
In his letter to the Romans Paul focused on the message of death verses life. Sin caused death to reign, but by the gracious gift of Yeshua (who demolished the chains of sin) life would reign eternally.
Romans 5:15-17, 20-21
But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus the Messiah, abound to the many.
The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus the Messiah.
…The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus the Messiah our Lord.
And so knowing that death cannot hold us down, we are given a mission: Spread the news… the grace of God is for everyone:
2 Corinthians 4:14-18
…knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.
My Grace is Sufficient
The prophet Zechariah prophesied during the years when the Jewish people were allowed to return to their homeland after many years of exile. Zerubbabel, under the authority of the Persian king Cyrus, was one of the leaders who brought the Jewish people back to their home. He would also help them build the second Temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah prophesied about Zerubbabel:
Then he [the angel] said to me [Zechariah], “This is the word of YHWH to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says YHWH of hosts. ‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it! [Khen, khen lah!]’”
YHWH was behind the return to Jerusalem and building the second Temple. Only by His grace could these things have been accomplished. We don’t have as much control over our lives as we’d like. Our might and our power isn’t enough to face the things that we face. But YHWH’s Spirit is enough… and His Grace can take down any mountain that we find ourselves facing.
Paul understood this. He had a physical ailment that plagued him:
2 Corinthians 12:**-10
Paul: Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it [the ailment] might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Messiah may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Messiah’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
God’s Grace is sufficient… it’s all we need! He gave us the only gift that we needed. As humans we yearn for many things, but God’s grace is what we really should yearn for:
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favour [khen] is better than silver and gold.
We may work hard for money, but God’s grace is a gift we have not worked for, nor do we deserve it… God gives it despite who we are.
For the grace of God [he charis tou Theou] has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Messiah Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
We have been purified so that YHWH can gather us, His possessions, and bring us back to Him in the Kingdom. All who have accepted the Gift of Grace, given to us through Yeshua’s sacrifice, are free from the sentence of death. We are the gifted ones marching towards to the Kingdom of YHWH, where we can be in His Presence eternally, face to face with our Creator. This is how our story ends.
The very last sentence (Revelation 22:21) in the Bible is this:
The grace [charis] of the Lord Jesus be with ALL. Amen.
It is a hopeful ending… a hope that everyone, all of humankind, would accept the gift that Yeshua delivered. Let His gift be yours! Wear it out loud, in the sight of the whole world, so that everyone can see the grace of God shining through us… because Amazing Grace is a gift that ought to be shared!
Next week: Plague/Pestilence