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Hesed

February 14, 2012
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“So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” Ruth 2:7

My phone rang. On the other side reaching through to my ears was the guttural cry of an infant and the trembling of a two year old. She said “I’ll be there in one minute” and then hung up.

The thing is that something like this happens to me fairly regularly – the raucous reality which my wife inhabits on a daily basis comes crashing into the silence of  pastoral study. There are days when she doesn’t leave the house (and she is by no means a homebody), there are days when it would be considered “productive” to get the dishes done, there are days when the glassy-eyed look is directly tied to the mischief and misbehavior of our offspring. But what is more stunning to me is the tears that run down her cheeks when other obligations take her away from this.

Hesed is a Hebrew word glossed by many English terms in the Old Testament; sometimes kindness, other times steadfast love, still others faithfulness, and also loyalty or covenant loyalty. The word picture associated with it is that of a mother bird, who to protect her chicks from the threatening flames of a forest fire, wraps them beneath her wings so that she is scorched and they are saved. It is a kind of commitment to the other which invariably means sacrifice and personal loss. It is the Old Testament’s preeminent word for God’s commitment to His people – His covenental love in which His reputation is tarnished, His name is smeared, and His glory defamed in unwavering loyalty to His stiff-necked children. This loyalty would mean ultimate and personal loss for Himself in the sending of His Son. Contrary to our popular cultural sentiment, with its unwavering commitment to self-realization and the following of one’s own heart at the cost of those around you, Jesus’ maxim remains true “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Self is found in the giving up of itself in hesed, not in its preservation.

So, today, when love is cheapened for eroticism and self-gratification at the expense of others, I “praise my wife at the city gates.” She is living hesed and finding herself in a daily dying. When the dust settles in our home (albeit infrequent) I recieve a vision afresh of my wife; yes as she once was, but greater, more magnificent, more sturdy, more full of life, more wise, and ever more beautiful – “from one degree of glory to the next.”

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