Hesed - Long-Acting Love
by Lois Tverberg
To Protestants, there is no more wonderful theological concept than "grace," which we understand to mean undeserved forgiveness of sin. In older Bible versions, the word "grace" is often the translation of the Hebrew word hen in the Old Testament, which really means "favor" or "beauty." According to David Bivin, this is actually an error on the part of translators.*
The Hebrew word that really comes much closer to our theological concept of "grace" is the word hesed (HEH-sed). It is a very rich and active word that is much deeper than just "mercy" or "lovingkindness," as it is usually translated, and maybe even "grace" as we understand it. Hesed is to love as God loves. Based in a covenantal relationship, hesed is sometimes translated "unfailing love," which endures to eternity:
Hesed isn't just cheap forgiveness of sin or a disregard for God's laws. It is the gracious forgiveness that comes from love that is so enduring that it persists beyond any sin, always seeking to forgive:
The word hesed has another aspect that also goes beyond "grace" as unmerited forgiveness of sin. Hesed also describes unmerited kindness that seeks to actively intervene to help a loved one. It is love in action, not just in our heads. Without a word for this, translators needed to invent the word "loving-kindness" or sometimes just "kindness." An example is when the Lord helped Abraham's find a wife for Isaac and he blessed God, "who has not abandoned his kindness (hesed) and faithfulness to my master" (Gen 24:27).
Together, both of these meanings of hesed describe the enduring nature of God's love, and reflect the fact that God doesn't just show his mercy by forgiving our sins, but in actively intervening in all of our lives. It is the merciful, faithful love that God extends to us, and what he wants us to extend to each other.
| ©2005 Lois A. Tverberg, Ph.D., OurRabbiJesus.com. All rights
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