HESED. This is probably my favorite ancient-language word. It is Hebrew (read from right to left, and those little dots and funky markings are basically the vowels). I’m not a tattoo guy (yet?), but I was (am?) fairly close to getting one and it was this. Because it is so powerful, beautiful and transformative.
It is generally defined as “Steadfast Love; Goodness; Kindness; Faithfulness; Loyalty; Favor; Unconditional Love. This is the semi-equivalent to the Greek word Agape, but I think even bigger. It is used 247 times in the Old Testament and all over the Psalms. Let me unpack it a little.
33:5b the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
God Himself, in his being, character and actions IS Love. Not just loving, but Love itself. In his essence God is this perfect, steadfast, passionate and powerful Love. God gets a lot of attention for being Omnipotent…meaning that he can do all things. But He can’t. God can only behave according to his being. And his being is Love. God doesn’t have the ABILITY to be or do anything unloving. God can’t go back on his promise or do harm to his loved ones. God can’t forget his people or be in any way faithless to us. This word HESED is far more than describing how God acts; it describes God himself. To drive home the point, the greatest HESED act, the act that displays his character the best, is his faithful sacrifice of his very own son. That’s HESED on steroids. Out of no consideration to himself, he gave us his very own: Jesus, the HESED of God in the Flesh.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
So when I am afraid, angry, judgmental or overcome with sin (my own or others), I keep looking to HESED. If this God’s essence and how he has already treated me, how much more will he continue this love today and tomorrow? How much more will God pursue me still? If He’s gone to this extent to bring me home, how much more to flood me with more and more love, that I would, out of response and thanksgiving, love him and others in return…with my own seriously broken form of HESED.
So how can I appreciate and hold on to this Divine HESED today? When I feel unloved and unlovable, I must return to LOVE himself, who gave himself, to make me a vessel of LOVE to him and others.
Once there was a father with vast accumulated wealth. He was a fickle, eccentric old man who told his numerous children that, in order to be inherit his riches they would have to make him proud. They would have to come for monthly visits to his home, get good jobs, maintain a clean lifestyle, have a public image in accord with their birthright and, ultimately make him proud. His children were anxious to get their hands on his wealth, so they behaved accordingly, becoming model children and successful pillars of society: an example for all to follow. Their family gatherings were friendly, frequent and shallow, often involving petty arguments and sibling rivalry.
Down the street there was another father who was pretty different, eccentric and very misunderstood. He told his many children that he would shower them with wealth regardless of what they looked like or accomplished…just because he loved them. His children went in all sorts of directions. Some loved by society and some dreaded. Their family gatherings were on and off, but usually becoming ending in a wild exciting party with laughing, crying and everything in between. The kids couldn’t quite figure out the father, but they loved him with all their being as they blundered their way in their attempt to “make him proud”. They weren’t an “ideal” family, but they loved each other.
The first family behaved beautifully, but had no love.
The second was spotty in their behavior, but had more love than they knew what to do with. Most of us treat God as the first father. He has rules and regulations that he requires of us, and we obey because we should and, ultimately, because we want what he has to offer us. But the second Father is the Father of the Gospel. Because Jesus already perfectly obeyed, His love is lavished on us despite our behavior…just because he loves us. But because we are confident in His love, our behavior grows. We love him back and love each other because we are loved, not because we “have to” in order to get his riches. We begin to love Him, not what He offers.Do you want Jesus? Or what Jesus offers? Do you treat him as the fickle inheritance giver or the generous eccentric Father who just can’t stop loving you regardless of whether or not you make the “family” proud?