The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016
The Hesed of God – Micah (2)
We met hesed earlier in Hosea and in other books since then. The vast majority of its uses in the Old Testament (246x) characterize God’s relationship to humanity. Most importantly, God uses it twice in his crucial self-definition in Exodus 34:6. So when God tells his people to love hesed he is commanding us to emulate him. And what he commands, God enables us to do. Every divine command is a divine promise turned inside out!
Hesed’s etymology doesn’t help us understand it because of its uncertainty. But the Greek translation of the Old Testament takes it primarily as “mercy” but also “righteousness,” “grace,” “glory,” and “hope.” Parallel words to hesed in the Hebrew
text mean “faithfulness,” “goodness,” “strength,” and “salvation.” Various English translations render it with “kindness,” “love,” “steadfast love,” “loyalty,” “favor,” “devotion,” and “mercy.” It’s a wide-ranging word that covers a good deal of the Bible’s salvation lexicon.
I translate hesed as “covenant love.” The words noted are all part of the Bible’s covenant vocabulary. Hence the “covenant” part of my translation. And “love” is at the heart of hesed’s meaning. We are, then, commanded by God to emulate his own enduring, other-oriented passion for the well-being of others.
Good thing God’s commands are his promises turned inside out, huh? We certainly cannot do this on our own. Nor does God expect us to. You see, hesed is but another name for Jesus Christ. He lived hesed in person. We see it writ large across the pages of the gospels. And what he did, who he was, for us he is in us by virtue of his resurrection and the gift of the Spirit.
-his mercy is our mercy
-his righteousness is our righteousness
-his strength is our strength
-his faithfulness is our faithfulness
-his loyalty is our loyalty
-his goodness is our goodness
-his devotion is our devotion
-his kindness is our kindness
-his steadfast love is our steadfast love
-his covenant love is our covenant love.
And Lent 2016 is all about living into and living from that covenant love as we have met it, been embraced by it, and equipped ourselves to live as it by God’s hesed-in-person, Jesus Christ our Lord.