Greetings, fellow disciples of Jesus,
If you could use one word to describe God, what word would you choose?
In the Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament, there is a word that shows up again and again in connection to God’s character: hesed. This Hebrew word gets translated into English in many ways: lovingkindness, steadfast love, mercy, faithfulness, goodness, kindness… There doesn’t seem to be one English word to capture all that is expressed in the Hebrew hesed. Again and again, it is this word that is used to describe the inexpressible: God.
“The LORD passed before [Moses], and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’” – Exodus 34:6
“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” – Psalm 86:15
“Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” – Joel 2:13
“…for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” – Jonah 4:2
In his book, Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness, Michael Card attempts a definition of this word: “when the person from which I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.”
That certainly applies to our relationship with God. In our sin, we sinners are in no position to expect anything from God; well, nothing good anyway. How amazing it is, then, that God gives us everything—forgiveness of our sins, salvation from hell and damnation, life in Jesus Christ! This is amazing grace, amazing love.
Having received that kind of love from God, we are invited to practice hesed, too.
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another;” – Zechariah 7:9
How can you practice lovingkindness, mercy, kindness to someone in your life today? Who is someone who has no right to receive such a kindness from you? What better way to reveal the love of God for them—and your love, too?
A fellow recipient and practitioner of hesed,