Hesed: Steadfast Love, Goodness, Kindness, Faithfulness, & Mercy

Hesed ImageCharlotte’s prayers are so sweet. I wish everyone could hear them. She prays that we would all know how much Jesus loves us, that we would love ourselves as Jesus loves us, and of course, she prays for Mary who is always getting into trouble. I want my prayers to be more like hers. They naturally overflow with hesed.

Hesed is, by far, my favorite Hebrew word. My guess is it will soon be yours as well.

Hesed [1] means steadfast love, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, or mercy. [2] The late R.C. Sproul described it as loyal love. I like that. It’s sorta like our word for love. Not only in meaning, but also in the sense that we use it to mean a lot of different things. In fact, we probably over-use it: We say we love our spouse, our kids, & our coffee.

Hesed occurs 245 times in the OT (1st in Gen. 19:19, last in Zech. 7:9 [3] ). Arguably, the NT equivalent would be the Greek word charis or GRACE (favor, kindness). [4]

  • Hesed has a vertical component; God gives hesed to us.
  • Hesed has also a horizontal component; we give hesed to each other.

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love [hesed] of the LORD. – Psa.107:43, (ESV)

OK, so most people do not like to read the OT. Its hard to understand and doesn’t seem relevant. We get hung up on all the begats, don’t we? Well, if that’s the case: I am giving you permission to skip over the begats. But I think its more than that. We also think the OT paints a picture of God that we don’t really like: full of wrath! This is a real shame. Because that’s not how God describes Himself:

The Lord passed before him, & proclaimed ‘Yahweh, the Lord, a God merciful & gracious, slow to anger, & abounding in steadfast love & faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the 1,000th  generation, forgiving iniquity & transgression & sin.’ – Exd. 34:6-7

Not just love. Not just steadfast love. But – ABOUNDING in steadfast love! KEEPING steadfast love! Yahweh repeatedly describes Himself as being full of hesed. Oh, don’t think I am watering it down for you: God is holy, holy, holy (Isa. 6:3) and sin must be recompensed (Rom. 6:23). But, God is also abounding in hesed.

Jesus, of course, perfectly embodies hesed in the NT:

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. – Acts 10:38

Over & over again, the Bible tells us Jesus went around  helping & healing (Matt. 4:23, 9:35). This is hesed in action! This is how we imitate Christ; by helping & healing. To be Christlike is to be devoted to each other in brotherly hesed (Rom. 12:10).

Ultimately, Jesus showed supreme hesed by laying down His life for ours (1 John 3:16). This is how we know what love is: sacrificial hesed. When you think of God, think of hesed. When you think of Jesus, think of hesed. And when you think of your fellow man, think of hesed. Just like Charlotte’s prayers, our lives ought to naturally overflow with lovingkindness and steadfast love.

Now, you can see why hesed is my favorite Hebrew word. Is it yours?


[1] http://biblehub.com/hebrew/2617.htm

[2] http://biblehub.com/hebrew/chesed_2617.htm

[3] http://pastorseansblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/word-study-of-checed-or-hesed-h2617.html

[4] http://biblehub.com/greek/5485.htm

R.C. Sproul, Loyal Love: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-hesed/

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About mrpatvincent

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Pastor.
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