Learn This Word

This is an excerpt from a sermon my husband gave recently.  He says if you only learn one word in Hebrew, this is the one to know.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 118:104

In the Psalm above there is a phrase that is very familiar to most people who have read or listened to someone speak on the Bible — steadfast love.  Steadfast love, love that doesn’t die, doesn’t wane, doesn’t falter, is always active before those who have eyes to see.  Steadfast love is a love which, as Paul writes in the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, never ends.

Now that beautiful phrase is the English translation of a Hebrew word —hesed.  There are two translations for the word–steadfast love and loving kindness.  There have been other attempts to capture what the word means, but those seem to be the best we’ve found.

But even the best scholars and translators have really been unable to capture the fullness of the Hebrew.  There is a deepness and a richness to hesed which defies our attempts to make it simple.  Maybe the best way is to use a series of adjectives.  Heses is God’s persistent, extravagant, unyielding, unrestrained, even furious love for His people.  It is a love that never falters and never ceases.

Hesed is a love that neither you nor I, nor any person who lived apart from Jesus could actually possess, for in each of us is the sinful nature that will make any love we give to be about us, at least in some way.  I love my wife, I love my children, I love my grandchildren.  But my love isn’t hesed because there is a sense in which I feel fulfilled by loving them, and there is also a sense that my love might die under certain circumstances.  And we’ve all seen how, when love dies, it can leave a pretty messy situation behind.  But God doesn’t love us like that.  His love can’t die, because His entire nature is to love.  From all eternity, the Father has loved the Sone and the Spirit while the Son has loved the Father and the Spirit and the Spirit has loved the Father and the Son.  And there is nothing impure or selfish in that love within the Trinity.  So when God shows forth His love to us, it is that kind of love which He shows.  But even more, hesed is not simply an emotional love–it is a love of action which leads to merciful and compassionate behavior on the part of the One who loves.

To be continued ….

For more on God’s love see:

Martin Luther on God’s Love (Agape)

Extravagant Love

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review

 

 

Lovingkindness by William R. Miller–Book Review

What is lovingkindness?  The term was first used by Myles Coverdale in 1535 as a translation for the Hebrew word “hesed” as used in the Scripture.  According to the author, there are closely related concepts from Baha’i, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, and so he does not address it as specifically Christian.  I also take issue with his view of human nature, as he believes:

“… our fundamental, natural, intended, and mature nature– is lovingkindness.”

Lovingkindness may be our intended nature, and as we progress in sanctification, it will become more apparent in us;  however, original sin prevents it from being our fundamental nature.

That being said, the book does contain information that is helpful in cultivating lovingkindness  in our lives.  Miller defines lovingkindness quite simply — to act for the well-being of others.  It can be sacrificial in a heroic way, or found in the many small choices we make every day.  If we practice lovingkindness as a discipline, it will become an integral part of our character.

He lists and discusses these twelve attributes of lovingkindness::

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Contentment
  • Generosity
  • Hope
  • Affirmation
  • Forgiveness
  • Patience
  • Humility
  • Gratitude
  • Helpfullness
  • Willingness to yield

Each quality is covered in a separate chapter, along with practical suggestions about practices you might undertake to increase that virtue in your own life.  At its’ heart lovingkindness are the following characteristics:

  • It is chosen.  It cannot be done grudgingly
  • It is enacted.  It is not just the emotion of sympathy, but compassionate action.
  • It is empathetic, having an interest and understanding of other views, even when they differ from our own..
  • It is selfless.  It cannot be done for personal gain or rewards.
  • It is consistent, a way of living, not an isolated act.

He also discusses some obstacles to lovingkindness:

  • Inattention
  • Fear and anger
  • Privilege

VERDICT:  3 STARS.  I disagree with some of the author’s premises, but he has provided an accurate description of lovingkindness, as well as some helpful suggestions for growing it in our relationships with others..

For more on the topic of kindness see these posts:

Deep Kindness by Houston Kraft–Book Review

Apathy, Sympathy or Empathy?

The War For Kindness by Jamil Zaki — Book Review