Reciting Morning Prayer over the last three years has rekindled a memory of a single Hebrew word – hesed (חֶסֶד). I have to confess, that after several weeks being taught Hebrew, the only the other word I remembered is Sus (סוס), which means horse!
What I do remember at college, however, was Gordon Thomas, the Biblical Studies teacher, speaking about this one Hebrew word which had such a rich meaning. It requires up to FOURTEEN English words to properly encapsulate its potent meaning.
It is a word that under normal circumstances we would sing about every Sunday in Church. It is the love God has for his people. Not the love we might have for a football team or a pizza, but something that is permanent, covenantal and faithful. It does not change; it lasts forever and is not based on feelings. It is everything we could possibly hope for and much, much more. It is the security, acceptance and devotion within a committed relationship, which every heart longs to experience.
It is a word that is everywhere in the Old Testament, occurring 248 times; but it is in the Psalms that it really comes into its own. Whenever you see the words “Steadfast Love” in a Psalm, that’s HESED.
As Melissa Briggs writes: “Accepting that God truly loves me with a hesed love had an amazing, unexpected side effect. Suddenly, there was the release of the pressure I had inadvertently placed on my human relationships to provide my sense of value and identity. As wonderful as my husband and children are, no other person can bear the pressure of providing me with my ultimate sense of worth and acceptance. The truth is I am fully loved and fully known by God. Any additional love and goodness in my life is an extra blessing and bonus to enjoy.”
Finally, if you’re wondering how to pronounce it, the initial h is pronounced like the ‘ch’ in loch.

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