Charlotte’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 means steadfast love, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, or mercy.  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  ). Arguably, the NT equivalent would be the Greek word charis or GRACE (favor, kindness). 
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 – ABOUNDINGin steadfast love! KEEPINGsteadfast 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?
I’m a visual person. I have to see it. If I don’t write it down, it’s hard for me to grasp certain things. Spelling Bees? Nope, not for me. I stunk at them because I needed to actually write the word down in order to spell it.
I really get into the Old Testament. I find the accounts unendingly interesting. Since it covers so many years and a multitude of people, I’m always searching for the best timelines to help me get a visual. I found one in particular that showed not only the Kings of Israel and Judah, but also the spiritual state during their reigns. I had never seen that before.
Take a closer look at it. The green line above the timeline is Israel’s spiritual state and the blue line below the timeline is Judah’s spiritual state. Notice anything?
Doesn’t it appear to go up and down and up and down? Also notice how the spiritual state slowly goes down. It immediately reminded me of a roller coaster ride.
A roller coaster is never steady. It jerks this way and that. It soars up and screeches down. It makes quick turns and throws you around. It makes a lot people sick quite frankly.
Is our faith like that of the Israelites? Is it constantly going up and down. Is it never constant and sure? Does it get “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14)?
We are hard on the Israelites, aren’t we? “Oh, I wouldn’t have done that. Or I would have done that differently.” But the truth is, we are all too similar. Our faith, just as theirs, wavers so easily. We need to take special caution to ask Jesus to fortify our hearts and minds. Only through His intercession, is anything accomplished.
Get off the roller coaster and onto the escalator! How’s that for a visual?
Just the other day, I came home from work and discovered that my dog, Annie, decided she would turn her nice bed into tiny little pieces and then spread it all over the room. She also thought it would be fun to chew up a laundry basket and then shred some paper while she was at it. Hey, once you start, why not go all in.
Needless to say, this was not the homecoming I was looking forward to.
I had gone out of my way, to make a nice, comfortable space for Annie. She had the entire garage actually. It was equipped with a super-nice dog bed, multiple chew-toys, and treats. In her mind, however, the chew-toys and treats did not look as appetizing as her bed, a laundry basket, and a bunch of paper. I can only surmise that in her mind, I had left her alone, abandoned her without revisions, and couldn’t care less how she was doing.
Here’s the kicker: just moments later, she was begging for some pizza that I was eating. I looked at her and actually said out loud, “You’ve got to be kidding me. After how bad you’ve been today, you expect a treat from me? Are you out of your dog-mind?!” (What? You talk to your dog like a human too, right?)
Lately I’ve been studying Jeremiah. This situation made me think of Jeremiah 3:4 & 5. This is Jeremiah speaking for God to the Israelites: “Have you not just called to me: ‘My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.”
Are we constantly complaining to God? Why did this happen? Why did that happen? Yet, we do all the mischief that we can. We try to get away with as much as we can! Then we have the nerve to ask God for His favor. God has got to be saying, “You’re kidding, right? Look at the mess you’re making! Can you not just love Me and follow My Son’s example? I have not abandoned you. The rules I gave you are for your benefit. They are meant to free you, not to enslave you. Don’t you realize that I love you? Don’t you realize that I am coming back soon!”
Truth be told, I did share my pizza with Annie.
Even after she went against my commands. Even after she did whatever she wanted. Even after she created a big mess. I couldn’t resist her.
I love her, even when she’s very bad… which is a lot.
Are you wrestling with God over something? Who isn’t, right? Did you know that someone actually did wrestle with God? And I don’t mean “wrestle” metaphorically either. I’m talking literally. God wrestled Jacob in a straight-up, hand-to-hand wrestling match. The first-ever Smack Down occurred in Genesis 32:24-32.
In fact, God wrestled Jacob all night. They wrestled until daybreak and when God saw that He had not prevailed against Jacob, He touched Jacob’s thigh and dislocated it. Just a touch. That’s all it took. This showed that obviously God could’ve won at any moment. As dawn was breaking, God said, “Let Me go.” No one can see God’s face and live. But Jacob replied, “No. Not until You bless me.” Ha! Imagine that! The gumption of this guy! God then (I envision with a smile on His face) changes Jacob’s name to “Israel” which means, “he who wrestles/strives with God.” Then He blessed him.
Why did God do that? If He wanted to challenge Jacob, He could’ve picked any kind of contest: a race, a riddle, or tic-tac-toe. Why wrestling? Well, any of those other contests are not interactive. They keep contestants separate. Wrestling is more intimate. God picked an activity that involved actual physical contact.
I’m not sure, but I figure Jacob had that limp for the rest of his days. I also imagine that he limped proudly. It became his badge of courage, his price for a blessing, and his evidence of a God that loves him.
We all wrestle with God, maybe not physically like Jacob here, but spiritually? You bet. All the time. It’s the “old man” in us rising up. It’s the rebellious tickle in our ear. Envy. Pride. Gluttony. Pick one. But here’s the thing, God will wrestle you right back. He will step into the ring. He wants to bless you.
Wrestling with God, however, does come with a price. You may carry a limp for the rest of your days. But you won’t view that hurt as loss. You will view that hurt as victory. You will want to tell everyone about your limp and what it means to you. You will want to tell everyone how much God loves you and how much God loves them.
This post owes a lot to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones‘s “Victorious Limp” via Tim Keller‘s “The Theology of the Cross and Walking with a Limp,” I encourage everyone to check out these incredible links!