Although there is a prevailing myth that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, the most consistent thread that runs throughout both the Old and New Testaments is that God is love (1 John 4:8).
Throughout the Old Testament, God is constantly calling people back to Himself and reclaiming a covenant to bring them in right relationship.
There is a refrain that meanders through the historical, prophetic, and poetic books of the Old Testament: God is praiseworthy because God shows “everlasting love” (or, in some translations, “loving kindness”).
The term used in this refrain and elsewhere, “hesed,” is a Hebrew term similar to the Greek term found in the New Testament, “agape.” Both words are hard to capture in our limited, English translation.
The terms go beyond platonic or emotional forms of love. The terms even go beyond the type of love newly married couples express to one another when referring to their commitment to one another.
“Hesed,” is an idea that expresses sacrificial love. It is love that gives and a love that envelopes a recipient in a promise of an everlasting union.
We humans try to get at this type of love in the vows we make to one another, but we often fall short. We are fickle creatures, and some days we don’t live up to that commitment. On other days, we love passionately, but even then our promises seem shallow.
But hesed is about the actual nature of God, of who God is.
I had a bit of an epiphany the other day. I was reflecting on the vastness of our cosmos and the expanse of the heavens. I was also thinking about where God fits into all of this.
I learned long ago that God is not literally above us, but rather that God embraces us as spirit and walks with us in the person and presence of the Risen Savior.
I got a sense that I had it all wrong: I am still trying to understand God by my own limited faculties. I then imagined that God is so big and God’s love so vast, that it is as if our entire cosmos fits within the palm of God’s nurturing hand.
Ever been in the middle of the woods where you are unable to see the vast landscape that makes up the entire forest? You are so small and the forest so big, you only take up a fraction of space.
I came to the conclusion that we are in the middle of woods, and God is that great, grand forest so big that we can’t even see God if we tried — there is no spaceship large enough or fast enough to get us away from God to see the entirety of God from a distance.
All of those theologies we use to try and figure God out are mere trees, if not twigs, in the scheme of who God is.
Then I imagined that God’s love was that vast. Every day, we are distracted by the things that we think are important. We have to get our way; we get offended if someone wrongs us; our petty conflicts and arguments create rifts between friends and family alike.
Our issues, however, are often smaller than we are, and so they are but bits of dust in that grand scheme of love that should imbue every area of our life.
There is no fight or conflict worth destroying a friendship. There is no situation — even those as tragic as the taking of life — that cannot be confronted with forgiveness and reconciliation. There is no sense of uncertainty and anxiety that cannot be offered unto God in prayer because God is bigger than all of these.
God is love, and God cares. This week, as you go about your day, remember the magnitude of God’s love. Then remember that you can overcome any obstacle if you put that love into action.
The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.trinityconyers.org.