‘Sian’. ‘Hai, sian’. When I use this team, the majority of you understand what I mean. But what if a foreigner were in our midst and you had to explain that term to them? What would you say? Perhaps it could mean bored. “Early in the morning listen to devotion, sian”. Or it could mean exasperation. “I tried so hard to do my maths homework but I still couldn’t finish it, sian.” We grew up in Singapore and we understand how to use ‘sian’, but it is not always easy to explain it to other people who are not from here.
The Hebrews have a word ‘hesed’. In the Old Testament, it’s a very important term. But there is no exact English equivalent. So in different translations of the bible, various words are used to describe ‘hesed’… steadfast love, mercy, lovingkindness etc. In human relationships, ‘hesed’ implies loving our neighbour, not merely in terms of warm emotional feelings, but in real acts of love and service. The Parable of the Good Samaritan, a familiar story, is an example of this.
Now, a couple of weeks ago, a tragic incident happened in Orlando USA. A lone gunman went into a gay nightclub and shot 50 people to death and caused many other injuries. In the aftermath of this incident, one company responded in an unlikely fashion. Chick Fil A (a company I have told you about in a previous devotion) sprung into action. Their restaurant in Orlando delivered sandwiches and iced tea to the people donating blood to help victims of the shooting.
Why was this surprising? Because the founder and owner of Chick Fil A is a staunch Christian who had previously shared his belief in the traditional Christian view of marriage: between one man and one woman. And he had been criticised, even vilified for it. People have called for boycotts at Chick Fil A. But his actions demonstrate to us that we can love people even while disagreeing with their lifestyle. ‘Hesed’. Love in action.
‘Hesed’ can also refer to our loyalty to God. You know my friends, it is easy to say we ‘hesed’ God in church, surrounded by our Christian friends; it is a different matter walking into school isn’t it? Do we obey and honour our teachers? Are we diligent in our work? Will we treat our fellow schoolmates with respect in our words and actions? Dare we sing aloud during chapel (even if people are not, or are doing so in an irreverent manner)? I had a conversation with one of your friends during the school holidays and he admitted, when no one else is singing, it takes courage to sing. But will we, as Christians, love – ‘hesed’ our God in school?
But the most important and the most precious use of the word ‘hesed’ is a description of God Himself. Psalm 136 has 26 verses and every single one of the verses contain this line “his steadfast love (‘hesed’) endures forever”. The God of steadfast love. One of my favourite pictures of God comes from the Old Testament book of Hosea.
Psalm 136 has 26 verses and even single one of the verses contain this line “his steadfast love (‘hesed’) endures forever”. The God of steadfast love.
Hosea was a prophet and he was married to a woman by the name of Gomer. Gomer would do something unthinkable. She would run off from Hosea and sell herself as a prostitute. Now, women do not sell themselves as prostitutes willingly. It’s often due to dire circumstances. Tricked. Kidnapped. Desperate to put food on the table. Etc. But Gomer faced none of these circumstances.
Think about how Hosea would have felt. Hurt. Crushed. Humiliated. Devastated. But worse was to come. God appeared to Hosea and this is what He said. Hosea 3:1 “And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress…”” God was saying to Hosea, go to Gomer, take her back, love her. Why would God command Hosea to do something like that? Here’s the point, you read on in the same verse… Hosea 3:1 “And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods…”
This is what God is like. A God who loves us in spite of us running away from Him. Disobeying Him. Having many other loves in our lives. This God runs after us and pursues us to win us back to Himself. This morning, God invites us to respond to Him. To receive His steadfast love, to respond to Him in steadfast love and to show steadfast love to one another.
*This devotion takes ideas from this article.