Hesed

I think it’s strange that we only have one word for “love” in English. I can say, “I love ice cream,” “I love my friends,” and “I love Jesus,” all while using the same word to describe three vastly different relationships. Sadly, as a result, our English word “love” loses a lot of its profundity and significance. And only having one word to describe love can become dangerous when trying to understand God’s love towards us. 

The Hebrew language has different words to describe different types of love, and it’s incredibly fascinating. They have a specific word- a specific type of love- that they use when describing God’s love towards His people. And even though this word doesn’t mean a lot of different things, we have to use a lot of different English words to describe it, because we simply don’t have one word that captures the whole meaning of it. Over the past week or so, as I’ve dug a little deeper into the meaning of this word, I’ve found it completely fascinating and deeply comforting. This is the kind of love that casts out fear, that makes us bold with strength in our soul, that gives us the confidence to say “yes” to whatever it is that the Lord might be calling us to, and that allows us to love both Jesus and others, radically.

The Hebrew word is called hesed, and can be translated as a “kindly-loyal-merciful-faithful-(the sort that shows up in actions) kind of love.”

This love is steadfast and consistent. It is never-failing. It is kind, merciful, trustworthy, loyal, faithful and unwavering. 

Hesed is the love promised within a covenantal relationship and it’s a love that is never deserved. God entered into a covenant with His people, He committed to acting towards them in certain ways, and He is completely, utterly and without failing, faithful to His self-commitment. Read through the following verses slowly, and allow His promises to wash over you:

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love (hesed) for you will not be shaken.” (Isaiah 54:10)

“For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the lovingkindness (hesed) of the Most High he will not be shaken.” (Psalm 21:7) 

Surely goodness and lovingkindness (hesed) will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

“…to him who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love (hesed) endures forever.” (Psalm 136:16)

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t exactly think this season of life would turn out the way it has. Uncertainty and fear seem to be pressing in on all sides, trying to take hold of us. And personally speaking, when I look at the next few months ahead of me, all I see is an empty calendar and a whole lot of question marks. I see friends moving away and friends getting married. I see a daunting task of raising financial support in the middle of a global pandemic. And everywhere I look, I see change- relationally and circumstantially. Life right now feels a little shaky and unstable, and this feels scary. 

But when I let the truth of these verses wash over me- that the Lord will follow me with goodness and lovingkindness all the days of my life- the fear begins to lose its power. Because knowing a Love that is committed and purposeful changes everything. It means I can say in full confidence that I will never walk alone, that I will always have Jesus- who understands and loves me fully- holding onto my right hand, promising to never let go. It means I can trust that the Lord will never fail to bring goodness, beauty and redemption out of any hard season I walk through. It means that I can step up in boldness and confidence to take on anything that the Lord asks of me, because He is always faithful. It means that even though everything around me is changing and life feels a little shaky, there is One who always remains the same and He is my Rock- a true and firm foundation.

These lyrics from United Pursuit’s song “Hidden” came to mind while writing this:

Now I am hidden, in the safety of Your love

I trust Your heart and Your intentions, trust You completely

I’m listening intently

You’ll guide me through these many shadows

As I grow, and as I change

May I love You more deeply

I will lean upon Your grace

I will weep because Your goodness is unending.

My prayer is that we can find rest and freedom in this Truth. No matter what comes- or doesn’t come- our Creator and Author has told us not to fear. And He has promised that He will be “with us always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). 

“For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the lovingkindness (hesed) of the Most High he will not be shaken.” (Psalm 21:7) 

“For we trust in the Lord, and through the hesed of the Most High, we will not be shaken.” 

*For further study, read Psalm 136 and insert “hesed” every time you see “steadfast love.” We serve a God who relentlessly chases down and fights for His people and this Psalm so beautifully shows that truth.

*Hesed translation from “Misreading Scriptures with Western Eyes” by Brandon O’Brien and and Randy Richards. I learned a TON from this book and couldn’t recommend it more!

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