A few weeks ago I providentially ran into Paul Miller and his wife on the Schilthorn Piz Gloria aerial cable car, the longest cable car system in the world while visiting Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. (See the article on our European vacation). I had read Paul’s book A Praying Life in the past and decided to read his latest book A Loving Life. And what a joy it was to read this book based on the biblical book of Ruth!
Miller introduces the reader to the subject of hesed, a word and concept that I was first introduced to by Michael Card, who is currently working on a book on the subject.
Miller writes “In this book we’re going to lock ourselves into the Bible’s story of Ruth and Naomi as they make this journey of love. The story of Ruth can transform you if you allow it to remap your own story and draw you into a life of love.”
I highlighted a number of things that Miller writes about hesed. Some of them are:
- Sometimes hesed is translated “steadfast love.” It combines commitment with sacrifice. Hesed is one-way love. Love without an exit strategy. When you love with hesed love, you bind yourself to the object of your love, no matter what the response is.
- Hesed is a stubborn love.
- Hesed is opposite of the spirit of our age, which says we have to act on our feelings. Hesed says, “No, you act on your commitments. The feelings will follow.” Love like this is unbalanced, uneven. There is nothing fair about this kind of love. But commitment-love lies at the heart of Christianity. It is Jesus’s love for us at the cross, and it is to be our love for one another.
- Hesed love is a determination to do someone good, no matter what, to be faithful to a covenant regardless of its impact on you. It wills to love when every fiber in your body screams run. This determination to love is at the heart of Jesus’s relationship with his Father, and at the heart of ours as well.
- Ruth has done hesed with Yahweh before she does hesed with Naomi. That is how it works. Faith comes before love.
- God is trapped by his love for us. God is bound to us in hesed love.
- The person in the Old Testament who does hesed more than any other is God.
- God does hesed to Naomi through Ruth. Ruth is God’s answer to Naomi’s lament.
- Hesed loves regardless of the response. It does not demand recognition or equality. It is uneven.
- Hesed love doesn’t pretend everything is rosy. In fact, because it knows things aren’t rosy, it sets its will to love regardless of the response of the one loved.
- Ruth gives us a perfect example of authenticity. Her deeds match her words. She commits to hesed, then does hesed. Her will (what she does) is shaped by her hesed, her passions (her love for God and Naomi).
- Endurance is the heartbeat of hesed love. And the nature of endurance is hanging in there in opposition to your feelings.
- Hesed love loves in opposition to our feelings. Love like this strips us of self-will and purifies our motivations.
- Hesed doesn’t look at the fairness of love; its commitment has nothing to do with how the other person treats you.
- Vulnerability is part of the cost of hesed. Love carries risk.
- Hesed love captivates us because it is so rare.
- In the storm of hesed love, you hide yourself in God. He is your only refuge when you are enduring alone, without help.
- Hesed love isn’t just doing love; it is the enjoyment of love.
- Hesed love draws you in. It seduces you. You want to own its beauty, to enter it.
- When we reflect on the story we are in, we discover hidden there God’s hesed love of us.
Miller also offers many important insights on the subject of lament, stating “In the context of the whole book of Ruth, Ruth’s love is God’s response to Naomi’s lament. God often uses human agents to show his love.” He states that a lament is a prayer, a plea for help. No one can endure the weight of hesed love alone. An honest lament makes hesed love possible. He also states that the church has not been particularly good at hearing laments from its broken people, but that when we hear a lament, we enter into that person’s pain, which is what Ruth does with Naomi.
He introduces us to what he refers to as the “J curve”. He writes “Our journey of love has a shape to it—like a J-curve. When we understand this framework, it resets our expectations for what life is like. In hesed love we enter into the dying-resurrection life of Jesus.” Miller writes that the book of Ruth began with death, but ends with resurrection.
This book was a joy to read. He includes many helpful illustrations to reinforce his teaching, just as he did in A Praying Life. Read it slowly to fully take in its full richness. Highly recommended.
Christianaudio’s Audiobook of the Month. This month’s free audiobook is Being a Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur. The book is read by my favorite narrator Maurice England.
Christ-Centered Summer Reading. Rick Phillips writes “It is a good practice for Christians to plan ahead for some rich reading experiences during the leisure time that summer often affords”
- Killing Reagan. Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard continue their Killing series (previous books were on Lincoln, Kennedy, Jesus and Patton) with Killing Reagan, due September 22.
- Newton on the Christian Life. Jared Oliphint reviews Tony Reinke’s new book on John Newton.
- Ask (The Other) Pastor John. Tim Challies interviews Tony Reinke about his new book on John Newton