2020 was the year of ‘hesed,’ and so is 2021.
Hesed is a Hebrew word for which we have no English equivalent. Hesed is a corporate, loyal, faithful, steadfast, tender covenant love. Hesed is more than a feeling. Hesed is an active loyalty, blessing and expression God’s covenant with us. It has power and backbone.
God shows his hesed to thousands of generations. (Exodus 20:5-6)
Reflecting on 2020, I can see parallels with Ruth’s story in the bible. And I can see God’s hesed.
Flexibility in a U-turn Disaster
The story of Ruth is about a loyal foreigner who in disaster, turned to God despite it being against all common sense. In God, Ruth finds blessing, love and faithfulness.
Ruth’s husband dies and so does her father-in-law and brother-in-law. The story is set way back in history, so to lose your husband was to lose your livelihood, identity, worth and status. In such a disaster, Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, decided to move back to her original homeland, Judah.
Ruth was from Moab and so Naomi encouraged her to stay where she was. For Ruth, the most ‘sensible’ option was to stay put, ‘deal with the disaster’ and strive to make her life better by finding a new husband. This was the easy, common sense option.
However, Ruth does not choose the easy option. She says to Namoi, ‘No, I will come with you. I will keep you company. I will live wherever you choose to live. I will stay where you stay. Your God will be my God.”
Ruth showed loyal hesed to Naomi. Moving to Judah would make Ruth a foreigner as well as a desperate widow – even worse! There was no imaginable way that moving to Judah would solve the disaster.
Ruth was flexible in the uncertainty. She was obedient and surrendered control over her disaster. Stepping into a life that may even cause more disaster, Ruth was flexible to God’s unseen plan.
Eventually, after moving and searching for employment, things get better. Spoiler alert: Ruth even finds a new husband and becomes an ancestor to Jesus! Ruth encounters God’s hesed and we can trace it back through the story.
I am inspired by Ruth and her flexibiltiy
Ruth’s willingness to obey Jesus, even when she couldn’t see the vision, led to living out God’s perfect plan for her. It led to her encountering God’s hesed. Obedience for Ruth was simple – one step at a time, going where the door opened, and ‘staying home’ when it didn’t.
‘I never want to be so in control of my life that I am inflexible to the perfect plan of God
Personally, 2020 has seen so many plans fail. I’ve had to give up all control but that has been beautiful. Looking back, I can see blessings, new relationships, memories and God’s hesed. I’ve learnt to stay put, I’ve learnt that my plan failing just means the better plan is being lived out.
2021 – Hesed
We are heading into a new year. For me, it seems trivial to do the usual setting goals, assuming that the arrival of 2021 will magically solve the world’s disasters; a bit of human common sense and willing can’t fix everything.
Of course, it’s still important to aspire to live better, but no matter what time of year, we can often expect to face the unexpected.
New year means new vision but again, if 2020 taught me anything, it was to surrender all my dreams and plans. As I look ahead, I’m about to finish a university semester, move house (currently I don’t even know where) and hopefully find a job. Yes I have dreams and thoughts about where God may be leading me, but I also have the humility to acknowledge that God’s plan may be in the unexpected. I have to be flexible to that.
Whatever your vision for 2021 is, may you know God’s continuing, everlasting hesed.
If your vision seems unpredictable or impossible, then pray for a flexible heart that’s willing to trust and rest in God’s hesed.
If you thought life was heading one way, yet suddenly are facing a U-turn or are in the middle of disaster, then may you know God’s unfailing hesed.
May you be encouraged to trust that God works all things for good. May you be flexible to surrender control and instead joyfully anticipate God’s hesed to be lavished upon you this year, just as Ruth did!