God's Love in the Old Testament
by Gini Crawford, MSW
Love in the beginning
God's desire for a love relationship with us started before creation. In Ephesians chapter one, we are told God chose us to be His even before the world and universe were created. A beautiful reality is, God has been waiting to be in a love relationship with you from eternity past. (Jeremiah 31:3). How do you feel that God has always wanted to be in a love relationship with you?
Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old (everlasting). / ...who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world... In love... Psalm 25:6; Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV®
We talked about God's characteristics in His creation yesterday. Today, let's begin with the most important of God's characteristics - His love.
God's relational love - hesed
God's love in the Old Testament is best described by the Hebrew word hesed/chesedh. Hesed is used about 250 times in the Old Testament, and is translated with words such as love, unfailing love, lovingkindness, kindness, favor, mercy, and loyalty. Hesed is not easily defined in a single word.
Hesed love is not just a feeling but an action of love, kindness, mercy, or faithfulness shown towards someone you are in a relationship with. Hesed is a loyal, steadfast, or faithful love that stresses the idea of belonging together for those involved in a relationship. It's not about the excitement of romance, but the confidence of faithfulness. It is the kind of love that would live out the wedding vows - until death do, we part. In other words, it is a love that commits to the person and stays committed to them no matter what.
Hesed love is generally directed towards friends and family, but it can be shown to anyone. An act of hesed love assumes the existence of a relationship between the parties, yet when no relationship is involved, the person exercising hesed has chosen to treat the receiver of hesed as if a relationship did exist. Hesed love also speaks of undeserved kindness and generosity done by a person who is in a position of authority-power.
Hesed love is central to God's character (Exodus 34:6). Hesed is defined by God and His desire to be in a love relationship with us. This desire from God was so great He died so He could be with us. God's hesed is a loyal love which is unfailing, everlasting, and intentional towards us. (Psalm 5:7, 36:5, 89:1, 33, 136:1-3; Isaiah 54:5-10).
And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. Hosea 2:19-20 ESV®
To consider: God pursues you with His hesed love, wanting a relationship with you. Do you want a relationship with Him?
Living out God's hesed love
A Christian medical clinic had been operating in a part of the world that worshipped a different god, than the Christian God. For years, the clinic had served that area, but no person was interested in a friendship, much less in Christianity. Then one day the staff at the clinic heard the family that lived by the clinic couldn't afford to pay for their daughter's wedding. So the staff offered to pay for the wedding to simply be loving neighbors - showing God's love. The father was clearly surprised by their offer; especially since their religion wouldn't allow the Christians to even come to the wedding. But as the days wore on, the father realized it was his only choice if his daughter was going to be married as custom directs. So one of the doctors gave the father the money he needed for the wedding. As time went on the staff realized the family now thought of them as close friends. Then one day the father said to a doctor, "Since everyone at the clinic has shown us such constant love and kindness - my whole family thanks you and would be honored to be your friends. We would also like to hear about your loving God." If we practice God's hesed love, as the staff did towards the family, we will bring God's unfailing and eternal love to the world.
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. Psalm 40:10 ESV®
Do you practice hesed love?
God's covenant relationship with us
As Christians we are in an eternal (covenant) relationship with God because of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:26-29). Covenant is a binding contract or agreement between two parties, to whom you want or need to be in a relationship with for a purpose. Covenant in the Bible may be thought of as the committed relationship from which God's hesed love becomes alive to us - very much like a marriage. A covenant relationship with God is where hesed finds its strongest and most natural expression.
In America, we used to be able to seal a contract with a handshake, but nowadays we need to sign a stack of papers to seal a contract. In other words, we have become less trustworthy with our contracts. However God's hesed isn't bound by our commitment to Him because we tend to be unfaithful to our relationships, to the covenants (or contracts) we make with God and others. God's love in His covenant relationship with us is bound by Who He is, not by what we do. God is never unfaithful, so His love in His covenant relationship with us is hesed or faithful, unfailing, and everlasting love. Read 2 Chronicles 6:14; Psalm 36:7, 106:44-46; Isaiah 54:7-10; Lamentations 3:21-23, 31-33.
Are you in an eternal covenant relationship with your Creator? Belief in Jesus puts you in that glorious relationship (John 3:16). Call to your God, His hesed is always there wanting to love you through anything.
Explain your thoughts on hesed love
Reflect on Jeremiah 31:3 today.