This week I have been wrestling with the book of Hosea. Of course the story of the preacher and the prostitute should be our sermon series for the month of Valentine’s Day! But digging into this book you cannot help but see the similarities to our own culture.
A people who have forgotten their love of God. A people who still go through the motions and bring their heartless worship to Him but have no desire to live for Him. These people who go about their daily life in the service of all manner of idols but still think that their sacrifice and ritual can absolve them of their unfaithfulness. This people should be the object of wrath. They should face the terrifying judgement of holy God. But instead He pursues them, He woos them, He continually shows them his HESED.
That term, HESED is hard to grasp. It’s translated “love, lovingkindness, steadfast love, mercy, kindness, and favor” because there is no good English translation. But one of the keys to understanding God in the Old Covenant is understanding the concept of “HESED.” It is found throughout the Old Testament some 276 times. (over 150 in Psalms ALONE!)
Jesus himself will quote one of the passages in Hosea that uses that term not once, but twice when addressing the same behaviors in the Pharisees. He tells them, “Go figure out HESED and maybe you’ll understand who I am and why I do what I do.” (Matthew 9:13 Jeff Paraphrased Version) He’s quoting Hosea 6:6 which says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Hosea 6:6 uses that word and it is translated “mercy.” But earlier in verse 4 it’s translated “love.” Still later in Hosea 10:12 it will be translated “kindness.” So what exactly is it?
That’s not an easy answer. As I stated before it doesn’t have a direct English translation. It’s something like favor but it also has an element of kindness. It’s very much mercy but it’s more than mere charity. It’s a lot like love but it’s more than a fleeting emotion.
Bobby Valentine puts it like this: “Steadfast love; never ending love; hell will freeze over before I give you up love; new every morning love.”
It is the core of God’s heart. It’s who He is. God’s “HESED” is the essence of His being. His steadfast never-ending love that will not let go of us even when we should have been let go of years ago. It’s who God is.
I think when we get that it changes everything. When we understand the measure of the love God has for us we cannot help but be moved. Be changed. It’s a transforming love that changes our very existence.
Again I quote Valentine; “Grace is awesome. Hesed is greater. … Grace is granted because love is already there. … It is difficult to find a greater picture of unconditional love than that in Hosea. Hell will freeze over, I may go thru Hades because of you, but I will never give you up! The welcome back ( – grace) is there because of the love.”
We start Hosea this week. We are going to burrow down into this challenging and convicting book to better understand our own need, our own unfaithfulness and the humbling, life-changing power of God’s “hesed.”
See you Sunday!