Together we have learned much from The Gospel of Ruth. Among other topics, we have discussed submission, mentoring, and love. I was pleasantly surprised to come across the Hebrew word hesed in Chapter 5.
Hesed is like love expressed, but it’s somehow bigger than that. Often translated to the English word kindness as in the action of showing kindness to another, hesed sums up the ideal lifestyle of God’s people (pg 115) as revealed in Ruth 1:8b, 2:20, and 3:10 (pg 116). I’ve added it to my list of favorite words like Jesus, salvation, and reconciliation. So when we don’t know what to do in any given situation, God calls us to hesed.
The hesed-driven lifestyle reveals two parties where:
…someone in desperate need and a second person who possesses the power and the resources to make a difference. Hesed is driven, not by duty or legal obligation, but by a bone-deep commitment—a loyal, selfless love that motivates a person to do voluntarily what no one has a right to expect or ask of them. They have the freedom to act or to walk away without the slightest injury to their reputation. Yet they willingly pour themselves out for the good of someone else. It’s actually the kind of love we find most fully expressed in Jesus. In a nutshell, hesed is the gospel lived out (pg 115).
Hesed is our call to action, an active pursuit of daily living. Ruth revealed this power to us as she forfeited her opportunity to return to her family and remain with Naomi (who appeared as the primary benefactor at the time). Ruth continues to display hesed throughout the small book of Ruth and that is what Boaz notices about her. He recognizes that she has committed to living her life this way.
At the heart of the relationships in Ruth are the continuous decisions to hesed which “can be boiled down to this: Someone cares and has freely made it their business to look out for you (pg 117).” Hesed means that someone always has your back and you do not have to walk through this life alone. Hesed is what we can be to our friends and family members. Hesed should reflect the lifestyle of the church.
I don’t know if it is possible to fully give this word justice on a blog post or even in the chapter that Carolyn devoted to The Power of Hesed. I feel a strong need to study this topic in more detail but am so thankful for the introduction and the glimpses of hesed that has been revealed in my life.
Can you think of a time when you have shown hesed to others? Or when someone how shown hesed to you?
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011