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



Today –The Day the Lord Has Made

This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24

This verse was my devotional verse for this morning, and it made me immediately think of a song written by Leslie Norman Garrett, This is the Day.  Born in 1943 on the island of Matamata, New Zealand, Leslie graduated from Faith Bible School, and is currently a minister at the Christian Family Center in Maddington, Australia. He lectures at Hebron Bible College and has traveled widely, speaking at conventions and churches.

“This Is the Day” originally appeared in Mr. Garrett’s collection, Scripture in Song (1967). Since that time a number of stanzas have been added through oral tradition, including “This is the day when he rose again” and “This is the day that the Spirit comes.”  The tune is Garrett’s arrangement of a Fiji folk tune.

The direct quotation of Psalm 118:24 places this praise song in good company with many other hymns and Christian pieces.  Wouldn’t we be happier if we woke up and sang it every morning?

What Are You Thankful For?


One of my daughters lives in another state, so we try to write letters to each other now and then.  To encourage our writing, we sometimes pick a “theme” to think and write about.  Last year around Thanksgiving, we chose to discuss “what are you thankful for?”  Guess what?  Neither of us put anything having to do with success, money or things on our “thankful” list. Neither list included a promotion or bonus, stylish clothing, a cruise or a face lift. Instead our lists mentioned God (our faith, our church), other people (family, friends), a job to provide for our daily needs, and good health so that we could do the things we enjoyed and be able to serve others.

Does this mean my daughter and I are especially good people?  I don’t think so.  I believe that most of us, if asked to stop and think seriously about the important things in life, would come up with a very similar list.

The real puzzler is this– why we don’t live according to what we know in our hearts is most important? We get caught up in the day to day so easily that it often seems like the small things –shopping, earning more money, redecorating our home or buying a better car – are the big things.  We take for granted the daily blessings we receive through God’s grace.

Spending more time in God’s word would remind us of our true priorities.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, “the preacher” tells us that most of the things we strive for are “vanity” or in another translation “meaningless.”  He advises us to find pleasure in ordinary, daily life :  “eat your bread with joy” (Ecclesiastes 9:7); “enjoy life with the wife whom you love (Ecclesiastes 9:9) and “find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun.”  Then he adds, “this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:20)

This year I want to remind myself that thanksgiving is not simply a day, it is a right attitude toward God every day. If I am constantly “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) I will be thankful all the time.  “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”(Psalm 118:24)