Learning to Listen
Things have been pretty good over here in BC. Life has its ups and downs, and this part of mine is officially an “up”! For the last few years I have been going through a bit of a restructuring about how I understand God. I had found out that the way I imagined him was fairly brutal, (compared to how he reveals his character in the Bible) and something had to change. After my Mom died I started being intentional about asking him some specific questions. The questions were something like… “What are you like? What do you think of me? Are you mad?” Since I started asking him, he’s been answering! I was very surprised at first, but now I expect it. He’s communicated with me in all kinds of ways, through people, or just when I’m sitting and trying to listen to him. But no matter what I ask him on a given day, he inevitably tells me that he’s kind. He’s kind, He’s kind, He’s kind. I have a hunch that the reason he keeps telling me the same thing is because it’s what I have the most trouble believing. But oh how it’s sinking in. I hear it from Him so often that the adjective reminds me of Jesus now.It is truly wonderful.
Listening and the Old Testament
Very recently he has even begun using Scripture (imagine that!) to convince me of his kindness. Exhibit A: my Hebrew exegesis class. We were assigned a study on the word חֶ֫סֶד (hesed), which is often translated in the Bible as ‘lovingkindness’ or ‘covenant loyalty’ or ‘steadfast love’.
Some examples of this word are in familiar verses such as:
Psalm 145:8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love (חֶ֫סֶד hesed).
Refrain of Psalm 136. His love (חֶ֫סֶד hesed) endures forever.
Exodus 15:13 In your unfailing love (חֶ֫סֶד hesed) you will lead out the people you have redeemed.
It’s also found in a lot of more mundane instances, such as when people are treating someone well, or making room at the table.
Genesis 20:13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness (חֶ֫סֶד hesed) you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.”
1 Kings 2:7 But show kindness (חֶ֫סֶד hesed) to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table.
What struck me the most while doing this word study was that חֶ֫סֶד hesed was defined in the prominent Hebrew dictionaries as goodness or kindness. It is usually translated as kindness in the NIV (New International Version) Bible when it has to do with relationships between people, rather than relationships between God and people. I think the reasoning behind translators choosing “unfailing love” and “lovingkindness” has to do with the fact that God is infinitely more “kind” than we could ever hope to be, on top of views of the covenant and how the חֶ֫סֶד hesed relates to that.
Recognizing a Familiar Voice
I definitely could have done a lot more research on why the English translators decided to go with all the loving, unfailing, steadfast adjectives, but I wanted to try something. I went through some of the verses a second time, the ones that had to do with relationships between God and people, reading kindness as the translation for חֶ֫סֶד hesed.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in kindness. Psalm 145:8
His kindness endures forever. Refrain of Psalm 136
In your kindness you will lead out the people you have redeemed. Exodus 15:13
It rang differently in my ears. When I read these verses with the word kindness I felt that I recognized somebody that I know. They melted my heart and even now when I read them I want to say “Yes, he’s exactly like that! Trust me you guys, I know him!” If you told me two years ago that I would feel this way, there’s no way I would have believed you.
He can help us.
I have been helped this year.
I have been comforted, I have been spoken to, I have been loved deeply by Him.
I’m grateful for these things he gives me piece by piece, over and over. And I’m looking forward to all the other things he has to say.
Like I said, it’s not usually directly through the Bible that He gets through to me these days, but usually when I’m praying or trying to listen. Some of the ways he shows me that he’s kind are too personal to write in a church newsletter, but I’ll be home at Christmas! I’d love to tell anyone some stories of how he’s healing the part of my mind that thinks he’s perpetually disappointed or angry with me. It’s good news and I like to tell it.
Written by our very own Steph. If you would like to contact Steph, or become a prayer or financial partner for her upcoming adventures in language development work, please contact the church office and we will pass on your regards.