The Hebrew word “khesed” combines the ideas of unconditional love, generosity, and enduring commitment. Read Psalm 136 aloud in your group, with each person using a different translation if possible. How do various translations help you understand the rich meaning of God’s forever enduring khesed?
Read Ruth 1:5-19. How does Ruth show khesed to her mother-in-law? How does this example support your understanding of what it means that God has khesed for us?
Titus 3:4-7 gives us a good picture of God's loyal love at work in our world. In this passage, what does it look like when God’s loving character appears?
God’s loyal love internally motivates Jesus’ followers to generously share what they’ve been given. What do you think it means for God’s love to be inside of a person (see 2 Corinthians 5:14; John 15:9-13; 1 John 4:16)? How does God’s love affect our actions toward those in need (e.g. 1 John 3:16-18)?
Take time to discuss other themes or key takeaways from what you read together.
If you tried to describe what God is like, it could be difficult or daunting. But when the people who wrote the Bible pondered the mystery of God, they consistently described God’s character in this way: compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, overflowing with loyal love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6).
We’re going to look at this fourth phrase, loyal love. It translates the Hebrew word khesed, which is hard to translate into any language because it combines the ideas of love, generosity, and enduring commitment all into one. Khesed describes an act of promise-keeping loyalty that is motivated by deep personal care.
Generous and Unconditional Khesed [0:40-1:27]
Like in the story of Ruth. Ruth is a foreigner married to an Israelite man. But tragically, her husband dies, along with his brother and his father. All Ruth has left is her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, who has nothing to give her. Naomi tells Ruth she should go back to her people. But instead, Ruth promises to stay by Naomi’s side and take care of her. And as other people watch Ruth keep this promise over time, they call it an act of khesed.1
Notice that Ruth’s khesed is not conditional or based on Naomi’s worth. Rather, it’s an expression of Ruth’s character. She just is a generous and loving person who keeps her word. That’s khesed. Now, Ruth’s loyal love is truly inspiring, but the one who shows the most enduring khesed in the Bible is God.
Undeserved Khesed [1:28-2:02]
Like in the story about Jacob, who is a treacherous liar, even to his own family. But despite that, God chooses him and repeats the promise he made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham––that he would have a huge family, through whom God would restore his blessing to the nations.2 And so twenty years later, when Jacob realizes how undeserving he is, he says to God, “I’m not worthy of all the khesed you’ve shown me.”3 And he’s right. But God’s khesed was never about Jacob’s worth in the first place! It’s a display of God’s generous loyalty to his promise.
God’s Khesed for Israel [2:03-3:32]
God’s khesed continues into the story of Jacob’s descendants, the Israelites. When they’re enslaved by Pharaoh in Egypt, we’re told that God remembered his promise to Abraham and Jacob. So God defeats Egypt and raises up Moses to liberate the people and lead them into the promised land. And in the story, this is called an act of khesed4 because it was about God keeping his word.
Now, on their way to the promised land, the Israelites are scared of the nations around them, and they doubt that God can protect them. So the people threaten to kill Moses and appoint a new leader to take them back to Egypt! God is understandably hurt and angry. But Moses steps in and says, “Forgive the sin of these people, because of your great khesed.”5
Notice that Moses asks God to forgive not because the people deserve it but because it’s consistent with God’s own character. And God agrees, and he recommits himself to a people that don’t want to be committed to him.
In the Bible, God is loyal and loving for no other reason than it’s just who God is. Of course he wants his people to respond with khesed in return. But even when they don’t, God’s khesed remains. The prophet Hosea compared Israel’s khesed to a morning mist that’s here one moment and gone the next.6 But God’s khesed is enduring. Like in the celebration of Psalm 136 that opens by saying, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,” and then 26 times repeats, “his khesed is forever.”
Jesus as God’s Khesed [3:33-4:41]
And so after centuries of Israel betraying their commitment to God, and after humanity’s long history of violence and death, God still kept his promise in a dramatic and drastic way: by becoming human and binding himself to us in the person of Jesus. And the people who followed Jesus of Nazareth said that, in him, they encountered the God of Israel who is “full of loyal-love and faithfulness.”
Jesus is the ultimate loyal and loving human. And in his life, death, and resurrection, God opened up a new future for all of us and for all of creation. And God did this because it’s just who God is, generous, loving, and eternally loyal to his promises.
And when we experience the purity and power of God’s loyal love shown through Jesus, it compels us to reimagine why and how we can show khesed back to God and to the people around us. This is what it means to say that God is “overflowing with loyal love.”