HECED – An Important Biblical Concept

God’s Lovingkindness I will betroth you to Me in…lovingkindness (Hosea 2:19c)

“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the sons of men take refuge under the shadow of Your wing.” –Psalm 37:6

When all the forces of hell seem to be raging about you — in your body, heart, or mind— when you can’t trust in your own ability to keep yourself securely tucked away under his wings, remember: no one and nothing is able to pry his hand open or keep his betrothed from his love. We persevere because of God’s invincible love.[1]

“Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” —Psalm 63:3

Hosea saw the relationship between God and Israel as that of a husband[2] with the attendant attributes of commitment, righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, compassion, and faithfulness. Through this enacted prophecy Hosea learned that at the core of the covenant is God’s profound love for his people. God seeks a response of surrender that will lead to a deep and abiding intimacy with God.

Lovingkindness — HESED (Hebrew)

That God acts in hesed (or sometimes spelled checed) has been described as the “classic message of Hosea.”[3]

Hesed occurs 176 times in the Old Testament from Gen 19:19 – Jonah 4:2, 121 times in the Psalms (or 70%). The most significant feature of this term is that God gives hesed to us in absolute freedom. Whether it’s God or people acting in lovingkindness, hesed is given of the “helper’s” own free will. Additionally, hesed always argues for loyalty of love.[4]

Hesed can be difficult to translate into English because embedded in it’s meaning is the unbreakable covenant bond that God initiates with his people.

A good, working definition of hesed is: the covenant, consistent, relentless, pursuing, lavish, extravagant, unrestrained, loyal, and one-way love of God.

The promises God makes are not conditional. God is NOT saying, “If you do this, then I will do that.” There are no “if’s” in these promises of God. There are no time limits, no cancellation clauses.

And so, while hesed has the feelings of love, kindness, mercy, and affection it is defined primarily by the unconditional steadfast, loyal, and trustworthiness of God’s covenant with his people.

In the Old Testament, God’s anger and wrath is expressed within the constraint of the unbreakable covenant bond, and is for the purpose of restoring the mutuality of that bond.  While God’s covenant bond is unbreakable and unconditional, it is not an “anything goes” relationship. It is a bond that has a purpose: so that we will be a blessing.  And the nature of this blessing is justice: right relationships with all – as well as harmony and well-being for all (SHALOM).

Pastor and author Rob Bell has an interesting take on God’s wrath.[5] He says the problem we face is not that God is angry with us, but that we think God is angry with us. Thus, Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to change God’s mind about us, but to change our mind about God: to notify us of God’s lack of anger[6] and to free us from the prison of our misconceptions so that we can truly live well. The place of church and religious ritual is to remind us of our standing with God and freedom to live lives of sacrifice and service.  What do YOU think?


[1] Elyse Fitzpatrick, A Steadfast Heart, P&R 2006: 77.

[2] Norman D. Snaith, Mercy and Sacrifice. A Study of the Book of Hosea, SCM Press, 1953: 40, 52.

[3] Van Gemeren, Willem, A. Interpreting the Prophetic Word, Acadamie 1990: 114.

[4] Harris, Archer, & Waltke, 1980.

[5] Rob Bell, “the god’s aren’t angry” Tour, 2007.

[6] Bell would say that God’s wrath is more about passion than anger.

Random Thoughts From My Stickies

I use the application “stickies” on my Mac to make notes to myself and to collect random thoughts, quotes, or pithy sayings to contemplate or study. Following are some random thoughts from the last few weeks. Sorry I didn’t always record the source…

*God’s perfection doesn’t merely reject or punish evil: it overwhelms it with good.

*Grace – God’s love for tomorrow coming into our life today

*Love – Shared hope (Kim McManus)

*There is a difference between obligation obedience and covenantal obedience

*Shalom results from living in the tension of…

  1. Contentment (Phil 4:6-7)
  2. Justice – making things right (Lk 18:7b-18a) “Shalom-makers”
  3. Righteousness – right relationship, navigate the relationship (Rom 8:31-39)
  4. Loyalty
  5. Community (Col 3:12-17)
  6. Wholeness
  7. Integrity
  8. Salvation

*Paradigm shift  — Gap between stimulus and response (Covey)

*Rules keep us immature

*Virtue comes as a result of moral effort – It’s like learning a new language, it becomes second nature

*We don’t need to learn our love language as much as we need to learn the language of love

*Learn to think Christianly

*The nature of virtue ethics

*The Spirit works to re-humanize us

*Love is not our duty, it is our destiny

*Take a nurturing response toward your emtional self, listen to the emotional self in the presence of God (Ps 139:1-3), draw your emotional self toward God, stay and wait/receive in God’s presence (Ps 46:10; Lk 10:42) — It is scary to be deeply revealing in God’ presence.

*Soul ache

*God comes to you disguised as your life. –Paula D’Arcy

*Every person we meet is Jesus in a distressing disguise.  –Mother Theresa

*Worship is the primary means to transformation

*Gideon and God test one another. God is available for interaction. Invitation to be bold (vs foolish). We are free to be bold.

*God “tests” us to reveal our hearts to ourselves (he already knows).

*OT is brutal and filled with war. The NT concept is that our battle is NOT against flesh and blood (Eph 6).

*Glory of God is among the poor.  –Joel Green

*Take calcium to sleep better

*Spiritual Formation – Intentionally partnering with the work of the Holy Spirit to help people learn to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength.

*Joy does not mean the absence of sorrow, but the capacity to rejoice in the midst of it.  –Gordon Fee

*Bidden or not bidden, God is present. Erasmus/Jung

*God is the goal of God – John Piper

The embrace of faith, like any embrace, is visible.  –Scot McKnight, Dancing Grace (Chap 13)

*Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.
I refuse to die while I am still alive.
–GK Chesterton – Man Alive