The love of God takes many forms in the Old Testament but it is supremely displayed in the Hebrew word hesed. Hesed means mercy but it is used in a way that puts love at the forefront.
The translators of the Bible have had a difficult time expressing what hesed really means. It encompasses so may of God’s characteristics like mercy, kindness, faithfulness, devotion, grace and love, all packed into one word. God tells us what it means when He says:
“‘For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ says the LORD who has compassion on you.”
Hesed is the word “lovingkindness” in the middle of all that. You can see those positive attributes of God being poured out on His people, right there. There is love, loyalty, mercy, grace, compassion, kindness and so much more.
Perhaps the best way to explain it is by seeing it in action. Ruth displayed hesed when she clung to Naomi after their husbands died. Moses showed hesed when he continually intervened on behalf of the people. Hesed was at work in David, in refusing to take the throne away from Saul.
There is a gracious and passionate loyalty in hesed that pours out love when it is most needed, yet often undeserved. It is justice, grace and mercy, wrapped up in love. It is the love of God in action.
“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”