Devotion - May 28

[Psalms 136-140 / Proverbs 28 / Matthew 5:44-46]

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

There is a Hebrew word, hesed, that is so rich in meaning we need a baker’s dozen of English words to translate it throughout the Old Testament: love, lovingkindness, mercy, steadfast love, grace, pity, devotion, and beauty just to name a few. Hesed describes the core of God’s character, the God whose steady devotion to his people continues to promise, pursue and provide despite every failure and weakness on our part. Jesus describes God’s hesed in Matthew 5:44-46 as the grace that causes the rain to fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous – why then would we not rain forgiveness on our enemies as well as our friends?

Hesed is not naïve about the wicked (appearing throughout Proverbs 28 today). Denying evil is contrary to hesed. The Apostle Paul in Romans 3 establishes God’s faithfulness as the heart of God’s justice – because if God is faithful in all things, then God’s judgment of evil may be trusted. Reflecting the LORD’s hesed to the world means that we name as an act of evil the brutality witnessed this week against George Floyd. God’s faithfulness toward Israel included the faithful witness of her prophets against injustice. The church must continue that act of witness, or we obscure an aspect of God's faithful character.

I'm also reminded that an expansive understanding of hesed, learned through praise, warns us when we risk crossing the line from a faithful witness against evil to the pride that judges the sin in another while blinded by the log in our own eye (Mt. 7:3). (I find myself asking again these past two weeks, "Lord, where am I blind to my own contributions to racial violence..") It is the power of the cross of Christ to simultaneously expose and atone for evil. This also is hesed -- mercy and truth are met together (Ps. 85:10).

Michael Card, in his book Inexpressible, echoes the call of Psalm 136 to remember and praise God for his hesed: “Let’s ask for the grace to be in awe of the God who, when he opened the door of his life to us, had this word consistently on his lips, remembering that even though we have no right to expect anything from him he is pleased to give us everything.” Let’s praise God for his steadfast love, and ask the grace to receive and reflect the hesed of the LORD.

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