WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
March 9, 2014
The Old Testament book of uth is a powerful reminder and picture of what true love is all about. Throughout its pages, we are shown examples that move us beyond emotion and reveal a love played out on the rugged plains of reality.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young looks at one of the most powerful types of love we can experience. And as he shows us the foundation of his love in the book of Ruth, we learn how our love for God and his love for us can stick through anything.
[Ed writes on a Plexiglas board the Hebrew word “Hesed”]
That’s what I’m talking about today. Anybody here have any Velcro on? Anybody have anything with Velcro on it? Just lift your hand. I’m not gonna call you out of the audience but if you have Velcro. Velcro is crazy, isn’t it? I’ve been doing some research on Velcro recently. It was invented in 1948 by this Swiss mountaineer named George de Mestral. He went out hunting with his dog. He comes back and he had these burrs caught in his clothing. And he’s like, man there’s something to this! And this engineer invented Velcro. You’ve got one strip with a bunch of loops, the other strip with a bunch of hooks. You put them together… boom! They stick.
I read some interesting facts about Velcro. Would you like to hear them, anybody? And I found this hard to believe. In fact my entire family doubted me but it’s true because Wikipedia said it. No, no, it’s true. This is a fact. It’s in a book written about crazy things. It said that a 5” strip of Velcro can hold up to one ton. A 2” strip of Velcro can hold a 175-pound man. That’s some serious strength. Velcro. Velcro. What a brilliant invention. Just some hooks and some loops and you got Velcro! Sticks. I mean, it’s there.
Today I’m talking about this Hebrew word. This word is a word pronounced “hesed”. Say it with me. Hesed. I will write it. You know, when you pronounce Hebrew it sounds gross but it’s almost like a dog who’s a little bit sick. <hacking sound> Hesed. Hesed. And don’t spit on the person in front of you. Let’s say it again, 1-2-3, hesed. Hesed is a deep word. We’re hungry for hesed. We need some serious hesed. We need some hesed. H-E-S-E-D.
What does hesed mean? Hesed means love. We’re hungry for love. Hesed means mercy. We need some mercy. We need to get messed up by mercy. Hesed means loyalty. Man, do we need some loyalty or what? In our world today we need loyalty. So hesed is a cluster of words, love and mercy and loyalty, kindness. Whoa. We don’t have an English word that is like hesed. We don’t have one. The best definition that I can come up with just to dumb it down, and not that this is dumb by any stretch of the imagination. If you had to just pretty much put the cards on the table, what is hesed? Here’s what hesed is. Hesed is loyal love. Say that with me. Loyal love. Hesed.
We’ve been studying the book of Ruth. The book of Ruth is nestled over in the Old Testament. It is a true, true love story. And one of the themes of the book of Ruth, one of the theological themes, is this word hesed. Say it with me again, hesed. So what does Ruth mean? Very, very quickly it means this. You ready for this? She said. He said. Hesed. Yeah, yeah. That’s what it means. She said. He said. Hesed. She said. He said. Hesed.
You remember that movie, “Eat Pray Love,” you remember that? It was done after a book that came out in 2006. Eat, pray and love, a woman’s journey through all these different countries. Eat, pray, and love.
Ruth is about ‘She said. He said. Hesed.’ Ruth is also about eat, pray, and love. Think about it. It’s about food. Girl named Naomi was in God’s country. She goes, “I want to move my family and my sons to Moab.” God said, “Don’t mess around with Moab. There’s bad mojo in Moab. They went because of a famine in God’s land caused by the disobedience of God’s people. That’s a whole ‘nother message. They moved to Moab because of a lack of food. Then after Naomi’s husband died, after her two sons die, if you want to talk about suffering… if you want to talk about difficulty? Their graves are still fresh. Naomi decides to move back from Moab by herself because of food. There was a barley harvest happening in Israel. God began to bless his people again. So, the book of Ruth – He said. She said. Hesed. It’s also about eating.
It’s also about praying. Now this is crazy here. This will mess up some theology in some people’s lives here. When Naomi was going through all of the suffering, when her two daughters-in-law, these two widows, were going through this suffering, they poured their heart out to God. I mean, they were praying. “God, why? God, I’m a good girl! God, I’ve done what you wanted me to do most of the… God, why? Why have you caused this? Why?…” And at first you read it and you go, wow. I mean, that’s some serious anger and tension and angst. You mean you’re saying that to God? It’s called a lament. So often we forget how to pour our hearts out to God. God can take our junk and funk. God can take our anger. God can take our doubts. God can take our questions.
And OK, speaking about doubt, next weekend we’re doing a whole message on doubt. You ever doubt? I do. This thing will blow you away. Invite your friends next week, we’re talking about a bout with doubt. That’s the advertisement for next week.
Anyway, back to Naomi. She’s like, I mean she’s pouring it out there. She’s saying it. Now many times in the church we think the church should be all stuffy and very conservative and when we cough <cough> it needs to be in the worship guide. Why are so many churches uptight? That’s the influence, do your history, of Greek stoicism on the church. Now, I understand God’s a God of order. We don’t go crazy and swing from the chandeliers, and take laps and do… I’m not saying we do that. But I am saying there needs to be some freedom. When we pray to pour our hearts out to God, even when you’re angry, even when you doubt, even when you go through a time of suffering or loss. Because many times I deal with people and I don’t know what to say. Some close friends of mine, a God-honoring family, some of the best Christians I know. This guy is a leading pastor. He has a few days left before he clocks out. Before he dies. He has a disease. I don’t know why. I don’t know where it came from. I know we live in a fallen place. I don’t know what to say to him! All I can do is hesed. Hesed comes from God. And we have the opportunity to give hesed to others.
Here’s what’s the interesting thing about hesed. Hesed is not fair. People are like, oh man. I want something that’s fair, quid pro quo. You scratch my back, I will scratch yours. This ain’t fair! Hesed’s not fair. Fair? God’s favor’s not fair. Fair? Balanced? Do you see any balance with God sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins? That’s balance? It’s like I deserve that? I mean, what are you smoking? I don’t deserve… you don’t, we don’t deserve it. It’s not fair. It’s not balanced.
So we have this girl, we’ve got three chicks who’ve been filleted by grief. Chick-fil-A. Thank you. And suffering. And Naomi is like, man, it’s about eating. It’s about praying. She’s pouring her heart out to God. And now we find out it’s about loving. Hesed. Loyal love. We’re hungry for hesed.
I think it’s so interesting that our world is all about feelings. We’re still following, you know, some of the 19th century figures, the Thoreau’s, the others who are about self-actualization, and all about feelings, and the mantra in today’s world. It’s, “OK, if you feel it, it must be real. And if I don’t feel the love any more, I’m out. If I don’t have this emotion, if I don’t feel it, I don’t feel in love any more, I’m gone. I don’t feel it. I really don’t feel.. I’ve gotta feel it if it’s real. If it’s real I’m gonna feel it.” I ask you why do so many relationships with the cultural elite, with the Hollywood actresses, actors, these beautiful people, why do so many of those end up in the deep weeds?
“Man! If I was married to her! Look at that body! Look at that face. Look at that bank account! Whoa, that would be it!”
“Oh, girl, if I was married to him. He’s worth a couple of hundred million! I mean, look at…” But it’s not working for them. I wonder why.
After the feelings fade in these relationships where there is no hesed, there’s nothing left. After the feelings stop, there’s nothing left. Well, what do you do? Well, we need loyal love. We need hesed. So I would argue true love begins where feelings end. When feelings end (I’m not saying feeling aren’t great, they’re awesome), when feelings end, that’s where true love begins. So I would challenge you to submit, to commit your feelings to your commitments. Yes, commit your feelings, your emotions, to your commitments.
“Ed, what are you talking about? Well, what if I did this? I feel like I should do this.” Well, stop, rewind, commit that feeling to the covenant of marriage.
“Well, I think I might buy this or do that…” Stop. Take that financial emotion, that feeling, that quiver in your liver, and put it against the backdrop of God’s financial freedom that he gives us in scripture. So I commit my feelings to my commitments. So we need to act on our commitments, we shouldn’t act on our feelings. Because when I start acting on my feelings I’m all jacked up and so are you. And if you look around, that’s the reason.
And I’m not hating on the A-listers, I’m just saying most of them don’t have hesed. You can’t expect them to go past their feelings. Most of them, they’re over, it’s done. See ya. It’s over. So when that’s done, I’ll feel this. I’ll feel that, and every feeling becomes another pathway. We follow the feelings and then it’s over. Then we follow the feelings and then it’s over. We follow the feelings and then it’s over. Then we follow the feelings and then it’s over. And then people say, “I’m good at starting love but I’m terrible at finishing.” We’re hungry for hesed. It’s all about hesed.
So eat, pray, love. It’s about hesed. She said, he said, hesed. Say it with me… you got it.
Ruth 1:8. Now we’re gonna pick up Naomi. Naomi’s in Moab. Moab is out of the will of God. She has gone through a horrendous, hellacious time of suffering. Her daughters-in-law, widows, Orpah and Ruth, have moved in with her. They’re hanging out in Moab. And back in the day if you were a woman and this stuff happened, man it was tough. Good luck. You had nothing. Nothing! So think about Ruth for a second. Her dreams have died. Her husband and sons have died. Everything has died. The only thing she has left, Ruth and Orpah. And now we’re gonna see Naomi, she is even cutting that relationship off. She is even saying, “I’m ready to kill this relationship.” Why? Hesed. Ruth 1:8, “Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law…” Here’s a key in the Bible. Whenever you read about the first words a character utters in scripture, normally it reflects their core values. That’s just a little Biblical hint. “…then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back to Moab (because she’s going back to Bethlehem, God’s country), each of you to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you hesed as you have shown hesed to your dead husbands and to me.’”
That’s interesting because Ruth and Orpah have shown hesed to Naomi. Naomi has shown hesed to them. So this is telling me as I show hesed to others, many times others will show hesed back to me. I mean, that’s really comforting. And so often God uses human agents to show hesed, to show his love to you and me, especially during a time of suffering. So I would say, based on this scripture, that suffering is the context where true love begins. Suffering is the crucible where true love kicks in. Now that’s, I mean, that is deep.
ILLUS: It goes back to my friend I talked about who’s dying unless God shows up in a huge way. Recently Lisa and I were talking to his wife. And here’s what she told us. I was shocked by this. Through her tears she said,
“You know, it’s horrible. I can’t describe it but I cannot tell you, Ed and Lisa, what I’ve learned about love through this process.” Now when she told me I’m thinking, man I don’t understand that at all. That doesn’t make sense. But now as I’ve studied the book of Ruth, here’s what the Bible does, as I understood what hesed is all about, this loyal love, I’m like, OK I get it.
But God blessed Naomi. She was willing to die to self to allow Ruth and Orpah to go back to Moab. And she was just putting one foot in front of the other foot. So often when we’re suffering that’s all we can do is just show up. One foot – and this doesn’t sell any books talking about this foot – in front of another. Conferences are not packed when you talk about this. One foot in front of another foot.
So here she’s facing life alone. But here’s what God does. Ruth, Ruth. Orpah goes,
“I’m done. I’m going back to Moab.” But check out Ruth 1:14, because we’re getting ready to go Velcro. “Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye…” and as I’ve said in this teaching, many times we will kiss Jesus on Sunday and live in Moab the rest of the week. That’s a whole ‘nother message. “… Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye but Ruth (Velcro, read it) clung to her.”
See, God uses human agents, Ruth, to go hesed on Naomi. Naomi has shown Naomi to them, “You girls go, have a good time, enjoy the rest of your life. You’re beautiful, you’re hot, you’re young, go find some Moab guys. I’m gonna go it alone.” That’s some serious commitment. And now God uses Ruth, because Ruth sees something different in Naomi’s life, and she clings to her. So she shows hesed to her. Is that crazy? It’s really, really amazing.
Here’s another one. Death is the center of love. Death is the center of love. Obviously the death of Jesus is the center of love. Dying to self is the center of love.
ILLUS: Lisa and I have written a number of books on marriage. We’ve lectured on marriage a lot. And I will tell you right now, I am the biggest problem in our marriage. I am. Self. And Lisa would say, “No, Ed. I’m the biggest problem in our marriage.” That’s my problem! That’s your problem.
Self. So we have to die, death, die to self – again we’re talking hesed now. We’ve got to have a funeral. Bury our ambitions, bury our aspirations, our dreams, and allow Jesus to live his desires, his dreams, through us. That’s what it means. Death, being at the center of love. This is not feelings-based. And the juxtaposition is feelings versus hesed. You’ve got feelings versus loyal love. It’s happening 3100 years ago and it’s happening right here today. Galatians 2:20, “I’ve been crucified with Christ. I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live is in the body. I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Velcro. Suffering. Death.
ILLUS: I remember when Lisa and I found out that our son EJ had and has neurofibromatosis. A genetic disorder where tumors grow on the nerve endings. We discovered this when EJ was several months old. He’s now 22. He’s had some tumors but they’ve been benign. Some are on his body but he’s doing well. When we found that out, though, we discovered there are two types of neurofibromatosis. One that takes your life very early. The other you sort of live with. And that was a time of suffering in our marriage, a time of suffering for us.
Even in our church. We’d moved to Dallas/Fort Worth. One car, one kid, and a dream. Thirty families. We’d been in rented facilities a long, long time and we had the urge to have our own church. And we had zero money, the church did, yet through all of this… and in the middle of this, EJ’s situation. And I remember thinking, “God, why? I mean, I served you, God. I’m faithful. I’m pure. I’m this. I’m that…” Yet Lisa and I began to understand early on the power of this loyal love, the power of hesed, the power of moving through suffering. The power of God using human agents to touch us and to minister to us, and to help us. We need hesed. We need it.
Well now we move over to our man, Boaz. I’m just running through it right quick. So check it out. Ruth is so immersed in hesed. She’s like, “Man, I’m gonna serve you, Naomi. You’re my girl! You’re older, I mean, I doubt you’re gonna get married again, and you’re too old to have kids so I’m gonna be with you. I’m with you.” They cruise into Bethlehem. The barley harvest is happening and she’s like, “Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Naomi, I am gonna go out, I’m gonna work and I’m gonna glean. I’m gonna pick up some wheat that’s left over for our food. We gotta eat.”
So ladies, she wasn’t thinking about, “Oh, maybe I’ll meet a rich guy. Maybe I’ll meet billionaire Boaz. Let me go on this website, BoazBillionaireTypes.com.” No, no, no. She was so, so, so immersed in hesed. She was thinking so much about the other person, which hesed does. She was so into hesed she goes out, focused, collecting wheat. And while she’s working Boaz, billionaire Boaz, shows up. He’s like,
“Man, this girl has hesed all over her! She’s great looking, too!” and then he begins to show her hesed. And then they find out that Boaz is a near relative, back in the day, who could be the redeemer, who could redeem the whole situation. Who could, if he wanted to, marry Ruth and take care of Naomi for the rest of their days. And Boaz… you talking about hesed? He sees hesed, and then he goes hesed. He goes over and above what he should do to help Ruth, who helped Naomi, and you’ve got a hesed-fest going on. She said, he said, hesed. Say it again. He said, she said, hesed. Yeah, yeah, hesed. We need hesed.
So in Ruth 2:20, “The Lord bless him,” Naomi said, talking about Boaz to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his hesed to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man’s our close relative. He’s one of our guardian redeemers.”
So he’s going to a hesed ‘notha level. HNL. I know that was kinda weak but I just decided to throw that in.
Ruth 3:10, “The Lord bless you,” now here’s Boaz, “my daughter. This hesed, this kindness, is greater than (you’ve outdone your former hesed, Ruth) that which you’ve shown earlier. You’ve not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.”
That is amazing. So they get married, they have a kid. The kid becomes the grandfather of David in the family tree of Jesus, who (of course) is all about hesed.
And then I read this, too. One commentator wrote, “This child was not Boaz’s heir, but Naomi’s heir.” I think there was some hesed in the house, don’t you? I think there’s some hesed all over the place.
But, but, but, but, but… Velcro. I mean that’s what I come to when it comes to hesed. Velcro. Velcro works. Man I love Velcro. When it’s messy outside, when it’s hot, when it’s cold, even when I’ve been kinda upside down in a boat, Velcro works. And a little bit, a 5” square, holds a ton. A little bit goes a long way.
Hesed works. When it’s messy. And our lives are messy, aren’t they? When it’s cold. When it’s hot. When we have doubts. When we’re upside down. A little bit goes a long way!
Do we have some hesed in the house? I said, do we have some hesed in the house? I said, do we have some hesed in the house? Does somebody need some hesed here? If you need some hesed, stand. If you need some hesed, stand. If you need some loyalty, stand. If you need some love, stand. If you need some kindness, stand. If you need some mercy, stand. If you need it in your marriage, if you need it in your business, if you need it in your dating relationships, if you need it in your finances, God, we need hesed!
[Ed closes in prayer.]