A Love Beyond Compare

Hesed is a truth that brings me to my knees in gratitude and worship. Let me explain.

One of my friends in China was once in a terrible car accident. I will never forget the description she shared with me later on that first day in the hospital. The doctors weren’t sure if she would survive, and she lay unconscious in a small, stuffy hospital room. Her husband spent hours and hours that day, gently, carefully, painstakingly removing glass shards from her hair. He slept for days in an old chair in a room with little ventilation. Once she woke up, he walked long distances to bring her lychees, her favorite fruit. Hesed.

In our world today, we know so little hesed. Relationships are discarded when they are no longer flashy and exciting, or when they no longer meet our needs. Everything around us screams: “have it your way.” The loudest voices in our world shove and push and ooze arrogance.

Now picture this: a successful, prominent college and seminary president. His career is soaring and he is highly respected by all. Then, one day, his wife of over 40 years is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. What do you think he would do? Pay for the best possible professional staff to come take care of her?

The true story of Mr. Robertson McQuilkin has stayed with me for years. This president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary shocked the world when he resigned from his job to care full-time for his wife. This man was at the top of his game; he had everything: money, power, reputation. And he walked away from it all to care for his wife. ..to change her clothes, cook her meals, sit with her in their garden, and make sure she was always surrounded by ones she loved. Instead of dealing with 10 million dollar budgets, he was washing the laundry and making coffee for his beloved. Hesed.

Scholars all seem to agree that there is no English equivalent for this Hebrew word. Translators use phrases like “loyal love,” “loving kindness,” “steadfast mercy,” or “undeserved love” in their attempt to capture the heart of hesed. It has become one of my favorite words in the Bible.

It’s used 241 times in the Old Testament. I think God wants us to hear loud and clear: My child, see my heart and let it fill you with joy. I am the God who loves you with HESED love.

Hesed in the Old Testament is God’s posture towards his people; his never-failing, unrelenting, forgiving love and faithfulness. It is his tenderness and mercy that is new every morning. It is His unshakable generous kindness that moves on our behalf, even when we don’t deserve it.

Hesed is unbreakable and unconditional. It is love that will never end, always wants my good, and fights for me. It is kindness that is immeasurably more than I ask or imagine, and mercy that sees me in my darkest moments and loves me still.

As you move about your days, bargaining in markets, meeting with teammates, leading studies of the Word, riding taxis, navigating a new culture, homeschooling your kids, blundering your way through a new language, remember God’s heart for you. Remember that his hesed is under you and around you on every side. His love is so big for you that we don’t even have an English word to capture it. Savor that you are loved that much.

And as you wrestle with loneliness or discouragement or your circumstances, as you question your future, or wonder why things haven’t turned out the way you hoped, remember God’s heart for you. Remember how wide and high and long and deep is His hesed. “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love (hesed) for you will not be shaken” Isaiah 54:1.

In the New Testament, God went one step further. Hesed took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood. Hesed became not just a concept for us to grasp about God’s heart toward us, but had arms and legs and was born in Bethlehem. In Christ, hesed was no longer a what, it became a WHO. He showed us the ultimate hesed when he walked the lonely road to Calvary and stood in our place.

It would be easy right now for me to say: Ok. Now. You go and DO hesed. We, the church, need to have that kind of love for each other and for the world. We sure do. But, please, loved ones, I beg you, allow yourselves the true pleasure of basking in the hesed of God. Just be with Him and let that truth sink into the deep places. Let His hesed be the rock on which you stand – knowing that His love is absolutely unshakeable and will never, ever let you go. And when we let the hesed of God – embodied in Jesus Christ – so fill us, it will begin to flow out of us onto the people around us.

Don’t try to muster up hesed on your own. You don’t have it. But, HE does. He IS hesed. And when you let Him so gloriously fill you up with His incredible love, it will be His hesed that will naturally flow out of you onto our hurting world.

You are really, really loved, my friends…with an unending, unrelenting, unconditional, unbelieveable love. Live in that truth today.


How has God poured out His hesed over your life?

Will you spend some time today thanking Him for this undeserved gift of incomparable love?


  1. Dorette February 10, 2016

    I love this week’s theme and it’s the first time I ever heared of the word ‘hesed’ .. Your post encouraged me this morning to ‘Just be with Him and let that truth sink into the deep places.’ Thank you 😉

    1. Renee February 11, 2016

      Dorette, I am so thankful that you have been encouraged to simply sit with Him.  I hope you had some very sweet time with the Him today…and felt encouraged by His tremendous, huge hesed for you!


  2. Elizabeth February 10, 2016

    “Don’t try to muster up hesed on your own.” TRUTH.

    I love that this kind of love is all over the Old Testament. I grew up sort of thinking it wasn’t — and not only that, that it wasn’t really in the New, either. So now, as an adult who can better appreciate the whole scope of the Biblical story, I love seeing His hesed all over the Old, as well as the New. It is everywhere, because it is HIM. Thanks for reminding and encouraging us to go deeper into His hesed!

    1. Renee February 11, 2016

      Preach it, sister!  I love that His hesed is all over the pages of the entirety of Scripture. My goodness, when we start to actually see that, doesn’t it make you fall to your knees in gratitude?   We are THAT loved.  Thanks, Elizabeth.

  3. Phyllis February 11, 2016

    Thank you so much for this. I have really been focusing on letting God’s love soak in to me, and your post helps with that.

    Also, I’ve always heard a lot about different Greek words for love, but not nearly so much on hesed. It’s making me think of agape.

    1. Elizabeth February 11, 2016

      Totally agree Phyllis! Why are we always taught about the Greek and not the Hebrew? It was there first, so I supposed we should also pay attention to it!

      1. Renee February 11, 2016

        I agree, Elizabeth and Phyllis.  I’m not sure why we are not always taught about wonderful Hebrew words like hesed.  I absolutely LOVE when we get to discover a deep truth about God from one of the original languages — it reminds me of what a great, big, HUGE God He is — we can’t capture Him in one language.

  4. Emily Smith February 11, 2016

     “But, please, loved ones, I beg you, allow yourselves the true pleasure of basking in the hesed of God. Just be with Him and let that truth sink into the deep places”

    This. This truth that he has been bringing back to me over and over again during these last couple weeks. I have a note on my closet door saying “Receive Love.” I put it there as I told God I wasn’t even sure I knew how to receive his love. He met me where I was at and is filling me from the abundance of his love.

    Thank you for such a beautiful picture and description of His love


    1. Renee February 11, 2016

      So encouraging, Emily.  I love that our God knows exactly how to meet us where we are, just as you said.  His love IS so abundant — I think we can’t even begin to grasp how deep and wide and high it really is.   Thanks, sister.  I hope you are filled to overflowing with His hesed.

  5. Shelly February 12, 2016

    Renee, this is timely. My org’s annual conference speaker addressed this word – a favorite of his. And I am in the midst of a recent loss that has raised doubts about God’s goodness to me (but is not powerful enough to overtake me). This word, this untranslatable word, is what holds me together and will see me through. I love the exhortation to bask in it ourselves before we even attempt to express it.

  6. Monica F February 12, 2016

    This was a beautiful post- I especially loved this:

    Don’t try to muster up hesed on your own. You don’t have it. But, HE does. He IS hesed. And when you let Him so gloriously fill you up with His incredible love, it will be His hesed that will naturally flow out of you onto our hurting world.

    My tendency would try to DO hesed, to make it happen… thank you for the sweet reminder that I don’t have it (what a relief!), and that HE does!  Blessings!


  7. T February 13, 2016

    This morning, I’m really taking comfort in the fact that this love is what He has for the sprouts of believers that are around us.  I’m not the one who has to make sure that everything is okay for them, and that they are growing in the ways I think they should.  The same hesed that is towards me, is towards them and He has been planning for their rebirth and life in Him since the foundation of the world.  whew.  what a load off!

  8. Julia February 13, 2016

    This is a truth that I have not fully embraced in the last decade of endless transitions, despite the mountains of evidence! Thank you, Renee, for the reminder that his unfailing love endures forever.

  9. Ruthie H. February 14, 2016

    I so enjoyed this week’s theme and have been blessed by your post, Renee. I am teaching a Sunday School class this morning and felt prompted to teach from Micah 6, especially verse 8 when God tells us what is “good.” “To love kindness” is on the list and wouldn’t you know that word kindness is “hesed.” I didn’t know this before I began studying out the passage, but believe God is reaffirming this message to me – He desires that His people also show hesed to others. But, like you alluded to, we cannot give what we haven’t received. The end of Micah chapter 7 then jumped out at me, in describing God’s hesed, “covenant love” toward His people and what a beautiful description it is! “He delights in steadfast love.” (vs. 18). Hallelujah and Amen!!

    1. Elizabeth February 14, 2016

      Ooh I didn’t know that about Micah; thanks for sharing!!

  10. Amanda Fretter March 1, 2016

    It is God’s goodness that I am reading this today, on a day when I need to be reminded of His hesed so very much! Renee, thanks for the reminder. And really wish you were still in Changchun.  🙂

  11. vst crack March 10, 2022

    The insightful article you have here. I did a write-up myself on this subject some time ago, and I wish I had your brief article as a resource back then. Oh well. Thanks again for this report. download Beyond Compare

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