I had a God-smack moment one night while reading Psalms. I was flying along when suddenly I hit what I call an eyeball wall—you know, when something arrests your attention and you have to stop and reread it 10 times to soak in the full meaning.
I should mention here that my backstory had been a week full of bad things happening to good people I know and love, and me questioning Papa God about why He seemed to be ignoring my prayers for them.
They were still in trouble. They were still hurting. Are you hearing my pleas, Lord? So He answered me right then and there through the words of the psalmist who must’ve felt the same way I did: “Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His lovingkindness from me” (Psalm 66:20 NASB).
Lovingkindness. Wow. I just love that loaded word. It acknowledges not only heart-feelings (loving) but also action based on those feelings (kindness).
With a little research. I learned that the word lovingkindness here is actually the Hebrew word “hesed,” which may also be translated ‘mercy,’ ‘love’ or even ‘grace’ (the typical New Testament translation). Ancient scriptural translations like the Septuagint and the Vulgate usually translate hesed as ‘mercy,’ but in this particular verse, the NASB prefers ‘lovingkindness,’ the facet of love associated with loyalty.
So do I. The word is oozing with the unconditional, dependable, faithful kind of love we all crave.
Hesed is found quite often throughout the Bible, sometimes within the context of person-to-person relationships involving loyalty such as between Esther and her king (Esther 2:17), Saul and his men (2 Sam 2:5) and lovers Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 3:10). But hesed is mostly used in describing God-to-man relationships, and by that I mean God the Creator offering hesed (lovingkindness or loyal love) to His creation (us).
Even when our own loyalty blows right out the window.
For example, hesed is notably present in the Lord’s description of Himself in the Ten Commandment passage (Ex 20:5-6) and during His displeasure at the display of Israelite disloyalty in worshiping the golden calf (Ex 34:6-7).
So therein is my answer. Yahweh’s is a stubborn, loyal love. It’s lovingkindness. A deep, resonating type of love forged of mercy, grace and forgiveness. It will never leave us stranded.