I used to live in a neighborhood with the most beautiful walking area. My apartment complex sat on a hill that overlooked our city, and the neighborhood was quiet, clean, and peaceful. The sky always seemed enormous, blue, and vibrant, and midway into my walk, I would come to a place where I was looking down onto a breathtaking view of the city of Marble Falls.
Toward sunset, colors would spray across the sky. The clouds would glimmer with pink and gold light, and though I lived in this neighborhood a total of five years, my breath never failed to catch in my throat. Daytime or evening, the sky was always so vast, yet also so near. And that sense of something being so close and so endless made me think about God.
Often, as I looked up into the sky, I was reminded of Psalm 103:11: “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.”
Once, while studying this verse, I noticed that many translations of the Bible use the words “love,” “steadfast love,” or “unfailing love” in place of the word “mercy.” I decided to figure out why.
It turns out that the Hebrew word in this verse, hesed (root word of hasdow; see also checed or chesed), actually does refer to love more than it does mercy. But hesed isn’t a word you use to talk about your undying love for Starbucks or your affinity for online shopping. Ideally, hesed is the kind of love you bring into a marriage.
Hesed love is determined, obligated, and fiercely loyal. Hesed is a “covenant” kind of love, established in the Old Testament through God’s covenant with Israel, and renewed afresh in the New Testament through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross.
As a stipulation of a covenant, hesed is a kind of love God has to have toward us: this love is defined as “fiercely loyal” because it would be a breach of God’s covenant with us if He did not have it.
Though Psalm 103 was written in the Old Testament with the insight of knowing God’s covenant with Israel, a covenant between God and man also exists in the New Testament. In fact, another way to say “New Testament” is to say “new covenant.” Hebrews 8:6 says this new covenant is superior to the old one because it’s established on better promises. We partake of this new covenant when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, at which time God puts his laws in our minds and writes them on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10).
If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you are covered by God’s hesed – His “covenant loyalty” – His unfailing love! An understanding of this covenant-loyalty love is probably what prompted Paul to write, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . For I am persuaded that [nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:35-39).
So next time you walk outside on a clear night and gaze up toward an immense black sky dotted with countless twinkling stars, remember this: as high as the heavens are above your head, as immense and endless are the skies, God’s covenant loyalty toward you, a Spirit-filled woman, is equally so great.
So rest in this knowledge! Honor the covenant you made with God when you invited His Spirit into your life. Walk in the Spirit daily, and know the breathtaking beauty of His loyal, covenant love.