The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

Ex. 34:6

Is God different in the OT vs. NT

When God chose this moment in the Biblical narrative to describe Himself to humanity through this interaction with Moses, He could have used many different descriptive words.  He could have said, “I am the Lord God, harsh and demanding.”  He could have been like the wizard in the “Wizard of Oz” by declaring Himself as “I am the great and powerful God!”  He could have used many different descriptions, but God chose to reveal Himself as He did in Ex 34:6.  Why?

When we talk about God, some people talk about the Old Testament God and the New Testament God as being different.   The God of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament can seem to be harsh and wrathful.  There were times when the people of the Old Testament strayed from God, and consequences came.  That is true.  But here, when God declares who He is, he uses some amazing words.  He says, “the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God” So let us think about that thought for a minute.  How about this phrase, God “abounds in faithful love.”  Now, as we dive into this phrase, we will see an amazing truth about God that will help us as we navigate our relationship with Him.  

What is Hesed?

The word that is translated to “faithful love” is the Hebrew word “Hesed.”  This is a word that can easily lose its full meaning through translation.  This word is translated in other places as “kindness,” “faithfulness,” “mercy,” “goodness,” “loyalty,” and “steadfast love.”  All these are great translations, and they are not wrong.  The full meaning of this word has to do with a love that is not dependent on the object of the love, but it is more descriptive of the one doing the loving.  This word carries the idea of a loyal love that is always available whether the recipient is worthy or receptive to the one giving the love.   This word also carries the idea that the one who is loving is bound by their own nature to love.

God’s Loyal love for the Israelites

The story of the children of Israel is a prime example of the loyal or faithful love of God.  As the Bible story unfolds, the children of Israel are constantly in a state of straying away from God and returning to God.  Hmm, sound personally familiar?  The amazing thing is that God is always there to receive them back when they return to Him.  This happens over and over in the Old Testament.  You see, God’s loyal love gave them the ability to return.  God’s faithful and loyal love allows us to return to Him too.  If God’s love for us was not loyal, we could never find our way back to Him.  God never gives up on us because He cannot give up on us.  It is not in the nature of who He is.  His “Hesed” or loyal love always provides a road for any prodigal to come home, any person who gets caught up in this crazy world, any person who just forgot to acknowledge God this week, or any person that has just lost their way.  The road back to God is paved by His loyal love.  God’s loyal love is the reason Jesus came.

Jesus is our Hesed

But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Jesus is the word “Hesed” in the flesh.  He is the one who loved us first because it’s God’s nature to have steadfast love.  While we were away from God doing our own thing and living our own way, Jesus died for us.  You see, God loves you and pursues you whether you return His love or not. 

Are you struggling? God is not waiting for you to become perfect His attitude toward you is loyal love.  Do you need to return to God?  Turn back to God, and you can rest assured that God’s loyal love is waiting for you.