Have you ever heard someone talk about God's "steadfast love"? It's likely a familiar phrase that you have seen on coffee mugs or painted wooden signs. It's a nice sentiment, but is it true? Is God's love really steadfast when tragedy strikes? Is it enduring when you are in the depths of anxiety and depression? Can we really say that His love never fails when it seems as if God is absent?
God's steadfast love is woven all throughout Scripture, and it carries so much more depth than we may realize. The Bible talks about God's steadfast love using the Hebrew hesed, a word that is intricately tied to God's covenants. A covenant is a binding agreement that God creates with humans. In a covenant, God makes promises to His people, willingly obligating Himself to them, and hesed describes God's faithfulness to keep His covenants. Hesed is a loyal, enduring, steadfast love that never gives up, never abandons, and never backs out on a promise. It is the goodness of God that works in every single second of history to bring about the redemption that He promises to His people. Hesed is covenant love. It is a love that stays even when it is not reciprocated.
Covenants were serious matters. In ancient near-eastern covenants, nations would enter into binding agreements with one another. The more powerful nation, known as the lord or sovereign state, would guarantee protection in exchange for obedience to the covenant's terms from the weaker nation, known as the vassal state. The vassal state would take what is called a self-maledictory oath, meaning that weaker party swears a curse upon himself if he should break the terms of the covenant. These covenants were often sealed with a ceremony in which animal carcasses were cut in half and the representative for the vassal state would walk between the divided animals, symbolically stating "so may God do to me, and more also, if I do not keep this covenant". A covenant was a bond in blood and not something to be taken lightly.
In the book of Genesis, we see an incredible glimpse of the radical, covenant faithfulness of God that displays His extravagant and steadfast love for us. God makes a covenant with Abraham, promising to make him into a great nation whose people would dwell with God in a land of perfect righteousness and peace, and that Abraham's offspring would be a blessing to all the nations. God commands Abraham to cut animals in half, but instead of telling Abraham to walk through the pieces, God puts him to sleep and walks through the pieces Himself. God takes the self-maledictory oath in Abraham's place, an action that foreshadows the death of Christ who takes on the curse in our place so that we might obtain the undeserved blessings of the covenant. The promises made to Abraham were not just for him and those who share his DNA, but all who are children of Abraham because they share their faith. Jesus Christ fulfills the Abrahamic covenant, bringing all who put their faith in Him into the presence of God as His children, and will ultimately bring the presence of God down to us in the new heaven and new earth when He returns again. God's love for His people is so great, so secure, so steadfast, that He gave the life of His own Son as its guarantee.
God's covenant with Abraham is just one of the many covenants God makes and keeps in Scripture, but every one proves the same thing: God is faithful. When Adam faced the curse of his own sin, God was faithful to send a promised Redeemer. When Noah faced the flood of judgment, God was faithful to save him through the waters and save him from sin. When Abraham and Sarah waited on a child, God was faithful to bring about the child of promise in their old age, from whose line would come the true Son. When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, God was faithful to deliver them from slavery into the land He promised them, just as He will deliver us into our heavenly country. When God's people faced exile, destruction, and excruciating times of waiting, God was faithful to bring about their redemption in Jesus Christ in His perfect timing. Even when they could not see it, God never left them. No promise goes unfulfilled. His love is steadfast.
God was faithful then, He is faithful now, and He will always be faithful. Whatever pain you are experiencing, His love for you is steadfast. Whatever promise you are waiting on, God is faithful to fulfill every one in Christ. No matter how alone you feel, God is with you. His love really is steadfast, and every page of His Word proves that it is true. Even when you can't see the full picture, even when you can't feel His presence, and even when the waiting seems unending, rest in the steadfast love of your faithful God.