Day 2 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast
‘Apart from God, there is no contentment anywhere.’ (42)
A painful fact of life for my twenty-something children is the sexually immorality that defines their generation. If not subject to parents who failed to keep their commitment to each other, they are steeped in a culture that celebrates the relentless erosion of holy boundaries. These are a people so scorched by porn they no longer feel the burn; these are ‘friends with benefits’, open to the sexual possibility in any amicable union (with either gender). This is the first generation to disavow marriage while championing the rights of gays to do so.
These are a people in need of Mercy. They need a Father who keeps His commitment of love to them even as they discover their inability to stay true to Him. ‘Steadfast love’, or ‘hesed’, is the main word used for mercy in the Old Testament. It usually applies to the Father’s covenant with Israel. There, the Father exercises His mercy by upholding HIs love and commitment to the nation that betrayed Him. Continuously.
‘Hesed’ keeps giving, reaching, and believing in the object of one’s love. In divine mercy, God vows to make a way for unfaithful ones to become faithful through the gift of His love for us.
That does not mean that ‘hesed’ is easy for the Father. For Him to so love His world only to be betrayed by that world breaks His heart! The Scripture opens us to His jealous, passionate love for the wayward nation. When Israel would pursue other gods, the Father likened them to lovers, her own heart to an adulteress’.
She broke her vows to Him, over and over, often resulting in the sexual immorality that defined the fertility cults surrounding Israel. Through the prophets, God would speak with vengeful passion toward the holy nation: ‘Rebuke her, for she is not my wife…let her remove the adulterous look on her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts…I will not show my love to her children, because they are the children of adultery. Their mother has been unfaithful…’ (Hosea 2:2, 4, 5)
Such anger would then evolve into ‘hesed’, the merciful promise that God would make a way for her to return to Him. ‘I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her…There I will make the Valley of Achor [judgment] a door of hope…in that day, you will call me ‘my husband’, not ‘my master’…I will betroth you in love and compassion (hesed); I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.’ (Hosea 2: 14, 15, 16, 19, 20)
Adultery of heart, both spiritually and sexually, breaks His heart. And from that heart flows ‘hesed’, the steadfast mercy that stands in the gap for us. It works. We have a faithful Father who makes a way for us to return to Him in spite of the adulterous flood around us and in us.
My 22-year-old son Sam, no stranger to false gods and goddesses, rejoices in being won over by ‘hesed’. ‘I don’t want to be anywhere else but in His Presence. Nothing else satisfies me like He does…’
‘They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them besides streams of water, on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim, my firstborn son.’ (Jer. 31:9)
‘Make Your steadfast love known to us, O God. Let Mercy flow from us to unfaithful ones. How can we refuse to give mercy away? Mercy liberated our faithful response to You in the first place. Your ‘hesed’ became ours.’