I am blessed and honored to be one of the contributing writers for an incredible ministry called She BelievesThis post was originally published on November 9, 2016 for a series on Friendship (in the Bible). I encourage you to check out the entire series!

READ: Ruth 1:1-22

“But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.” {Ruth 1:8}

I want to introduce you to a beautiful word. If you already know it, then I would love to stoke a fire in your heart with it…

Hesed.

Hesed is a rich Hebrew word which no English translation can completely capture. It is often times translated ‘kindness,’ ‘loving-kindness,’ ‘mercy,’ and ‘loyalty,’ among other similar terms. The words ‘loyal love’ and ‘covenant love’ are a little more helpful in understanding more of the depth of the meaning. It’s a love that far surpasses feeling. It’s a love that doesn’t let go. It is expressed not with mere words, but with merciful actions. It is a giving and relentless love. Most incredibly, this is the love that God has for his people: Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! {Psalm 36:10}.

We see this love/kindness displayed in the relationship between Naomi and her daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth. In Ruth 1:8, Naomi praises them for showing her, and her sons, such loyal love, and expresses her desire that the Lord would show the same to them. Naomi was in a foreign land for over 10 years and lost her husband and her sons; she felt that the Lords hand was against her (1:13). These two women were all that she had, but, for their sake, she encouraged them not to follow her but to remain in their land where they would more likely remarry. Orpah eventually agreed, but Ruth was ruthless in her commitment.

“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return 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 will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’” {Ruth 1:16-17}

This is beautiful, isn’t it? Ruth continues to show hesed to Naomi though it would cost her leaving everything she knew and very likely cost her a future husband (so they thought). I believe that in Ruth’s many years of being with her husband and Naomi, she was introduced to the ‘steadfast lovingkindness’ of the Lord, and no longer identified with the gods of her land. When the time came to go, she was going, no matter the cost. Wow. Think about that for a minute.

This got me to wondering, do we do this today? Do we show this same kind of deep commitment to others? Can you think of a relationship in which you would be willing to sacrifice some of your wants/needs/comforts for the sake of God or another?

God made relationships so much more beautiful and intertwined than we actually realize. Our lives are truly more intertwined than our supposed self-sufficiency would like to admit. But how much do we truly give of ourselves to others, for the glory of God? Can we in any way relate to Paul when he told the Thessalonians:

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. { 1 Thessalonians 2:8 }

After reading that, it sounds like Ruth was ahead of her time.

Another beautiful truth I am reminded of when I read about Ruth and Naomi is that there is a bigger picture behind our relationships. Naomi was an older widow in a foreign land; Ruth was a young widow, willing to make her land foreign (and everything that came with it). One was bitter, the other, determined. Both knew loss. Both were part of a bigger story. Naomi and Ruth were not only mother and daughter-in-law, they were great, great grandmother and great-grandmother to David, in whose line would come our Savior. While their story preceded Jesus’ incarnation and the cross, ours precedes His return. Our lives and relationships today are also for the glory of God, to accomplish his kingdom purposes until he returns.

Jesus’ commandment to his disciples was to love one another as he loved them { John 15:12 }. This extends to us. Since Jesus is the embodiment of hesed, may we also display this beautiful gift of mercy/kindness/loyalty/steadfast, covenant love in our relationships.

What if we let this kind of love dictate our lives, rather than being distracted by our circumstances? Oh, what if!

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