That’s right. I have HSD…
HSD is a serious condition, influencing the lives and circumstances of many people. Not everyone has it; although some do. HSD is contracted before life begins and although it may run in families, it is not hereditary. Its symptoms are not always obvious, especially at first. After it is recognized, its effects seem obvious as one thinks back over his or her life. Those who receive it often transmit it to others.
Although the effects of HSD are contagious, humans cannot transmit it to one another. It comes from an outside source. Additionally, it is closely related to another more familiar concept known as agape.
You probably have guessed by now that I am referring to something biblical. The HSD to which I referred is actually a Hebrew term used in the Old Testament. Hesed often indicates God’s committed love, especially to his covenant people.
For hundreds of years, HSD was usually thought of as “loving kindness.” Then, about 100 years ago, a German Old Testament scholar suggested that the term was closely related to the covenant or contract which God established with his people. This shifted the emphasis from mercy to loving loyalty to a binding agreement or treaty. The stress was on lovingly “keeping the bargain” which had been agreed upon. Others, somewhat later, argued against this, saying that you did not sufficiently stress the attitude of freedom in giving love or kindness.
HSD has been translated in various ways, especially by recent versions of the Bible. For instance, the KJV reads loving-kindness or mercy; the RSV and ESV use steadfast love; the NASB loving-kindness, kindness or love; the NIV unfailing love; Lexham: loyal love; CSB: faithful love. The point is clear enough. HSD refers to God’s unconditional, undeserved, unending and always dependable love.
To help us understand the true nature of HSD God has given us an account of a one-sided marriage in the book of Hosea. To drive home the point of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, the Lord commands his prophet, named Hosea, to marry a promiscuous woman (“wife of whoredom” – prostitute). Her name is Gomer and she bears one son to Hosea and then has 2 more children, a girl and a boy, specifically identified as “children of whoredom.” In other words, she was unfaithful to Hosea. Violating her marriage vows, she lived with her illicit lovers. The parallel between Gomer and Israel is clear. When God’s people ignore their God, they are committing spiritual adultery. Their shame is well deserved. More than that, their loving God suffers anguish comparable to the hurt experienced in a failed marriage.
But that’s not the end; there is more. God’s love for his people is so expansive that he declares he will pour out his HSD and mercy on her forever. To demonstrate this, Hosea is instructed to seek out and win the affection of his still adulterous wife. Finally, Hosea redeemed his wife at a high price, returns her to his house and continues showering her with constant and undeserved love.
Most of us are familiar with the words of the children song Jesus loves me. Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak but he is strong. The words to the first verse are very familiar. They were written to give comfort to young children. One time I heard a variant: Jesus loves me, when I’m good, when I do the things I should. Jesus loves me when I’m bad, though it makes him very sad. I’m not sure whether these words were in the original lyrics, but they do emphasize the wonderful truth of the love of Jesus. He always loves us – even when we disobey or ignore him.
Sometimes, when life seems to go sideways – we become confused, disappointed or hurt, we might wonder if God still cares. We are tempted to think that if God really loved us, our situation would be different – much better. We wonder where the Lord is. Is it really worth serving him? We might know Bible verses which tell us otherwise, but we feel like we are forgotten and unloved.
In times of difficulty is helpful for me to recall and consider what I might know in my head but don’t feel in my heart. For instance, I consider the words of Psalm 23. Near the end of that favorite Psalm are the words: “Surely goodness and HSD will follow me…” It’s good to hear God promise, “I’ve got your back.”
We live in a world which is constantly changing and where we are often hurt and disappointed, even by those who love us (because they are as limited as me!) What a great encouragement and comfort it is to know that I have HSD.