What is this word??
Because hesed is such a specific and nuanced word, it is very difficult to define in English. In various Bible translations it is rendered ‘steadfast love’ (ESV), ‘loyal love,’ or ‘covenant love’ (NET), ‘unfailing love’ (NLT), and ‘loving-kindness’ (KJV). It ‘denotes kindness, love, loyalty, mercy’ (Mounce). 'Strength, steadfastness and love’ are three strains of its interacting meanings (Strong). Daniel Block describes it as ‘that quality that moves a person to act for the benefit of another without respect to the advantage it might bring to the one who expresses it.’ He goes on to say that hesed is described mainly through action rather than emotion.
This is the way God treats his covenant people. The Old Testament narratives illustrate this profoundly. Israel strays from God again and again, yet he continues to act on their behalf.
But what about Gentiles? What about the church? Is this unstoppable, special love for us as well?
The Church is the New Covenant People of God
We Must Treat Our Brothers/Sisters with the Loving-Kindness We have Received from God
A quick word search will provide much blessing as you study hesed in Scripture. Here are a few to get you started:
Genesis 19:19 – Lot was shown hesed as the angels dragged him out of Sodom!
Gen39:21 – towards Joseph in prison
Exodus 15:13; 20:26; 34:6-7
Num 14:19 - in forgiving sin
2 Sam 9:3 – David and Mephibosheth
22:51 – to David
1 Kings 8:23 – Solomon’s prayer at Temple
Ezra 3:11 – sang about it
Neh 13:22 – spare me according to it
Jeremiah 9:24 – know God through it
Hosea 4:1 – God confronts Israel for not having it (6:6)
Zech 7:9 – show it to each other
Jonah 4:2 – Jonah mad at God for showing it to Gentiles
Micah 7:18-20 – not anger but love
May we praise God for his unstoppable, unrelenting loyal-loving-kindness toward us, who enjoy these blessings because of the blood of Christ!
And may we show this loyal, covenant love to one another in our local congregations, for the glory of Christ in the church.