Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever (Ps 136:1).
Hesed. A few months ago our pastor preached about God’s Hesed. I know, I know. I keep telling you about great things I have learned from our pastor but…he is pretty awesome. But, seriously, my favorite thing that I have learned from him, since moving here 11 months ago, is the meaning of the word Hesed.
HESED: Steadfast faithfulness, loyal loving-kindness, covenant-keeping love
When you read in your Bible the words “steadfast love”, this is translated from the Hebrew HESED. The key idea here is the covenant-keeping aspect of this love. Covenants are based on mutual loyalty and commitment to the promise. Hesed is the same word that describes the kind of loyal love which must exist in a marriage – and this explains why God often uses the symbolism of marriage to describe His relationship with us.
Understanding God’s Hesed is essential to knowing Him – to being intimately acquainted with Him – this allows us to gain a more accurate understanding of His character. Hesed is more than what He feels or does…it is part of Who He is. God’s Hesed defines His interactions with us. In this way He is predictable. I wrote about this recently: it is not that we know what He will do or how He will accomplish His plans…but it is His character that is constant.
Our relationships with other humans and our own personal inconsistencies can make it hard for us to comprehend God’s faithfulness. Our human experience does not testify to God’s character. I was trying to explain to the kids: that He is more like the tides, the rising and setting sun, the location of the constellations, the change in seasons…God reveals Himself to us in nature and in other aspects of His creation like physics and mathematics – demonstrating His dependability.
And there is a gratitude that arises out of this understanding of His reliability. What a relief to know that He is loyal in His love of us…that we can rely on Him, like no one else.
- It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.Do not fear or be dismayed (Deut 31:8).
- Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Josh 1:9).
- So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6).
- But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me (Micah 7:7).
When we wake up and put on our cranky pants, or when our gluttonous hearts crave more than we need, or when we battle rebellion welling up inside of us, it helps us to remember to His Hesed. It is humbling to look on Him. We are enabled to love Him more when see His love of us. The greatest fulfillment of God’s Hesed (His commitment to us) is the sacrifice of Christ:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:6-8).
Since covenants are reciprocal, the sacrifice of Christ should provoke in us Hesed as well – our steadfast love and loyal affection. Remembering His sacrifice and love for us gives us a grateful heart: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever (Ps 136:1).